Clark County Sheriff’s Office deputies fired 34 shots at Kevin Peterson Jr., with four striking and killing the 21-year-old, investigators said in a press release Wednesday.
The detail comes as investigators say their work is nearly complete and will be forwarded to Clark County Prosecutor Tony Golik for a criminal review. Golik plans to outsource the review to the prosecutor in Pierce County.
Wednesday’s update included photos, security camera footage and dispatch radio traffic of the fatal encounter Oct. 29 at the parking lot of a shuttered bank outside Vancouver, which stemmed from an attempted drug bust at a nearby hotel. A regional drug task force attempted to arrest Peterson for selling Xanax.
Investigators released an 11-minute video montage recapping the event. Law enforcement agencies in southwest Washington, including the Vancouver Police Department and the Clark County Sheriff’s Office, do not use body-worn cameras or dashboard cameras.
The video included photos reportedly showing Peterson holding Xanax pills in his car. Another picture, a selfie, suggested “violence toward law enforcement,” investigators said.
Aerial footage showed Peterson parked in the west parking lot of the hotel. A search warrant, first reported by OPB, stated the task force had been tipped off by a criminal informant and had been building a case to arrest Peterson for attempting to distribute a controlled substance.
Once in the parking lot, the task force moved in. It’s unclear if there was an attempted sale on the scene. Investigators said the task force used unmarked vehicles, with emergency lights activated, to block Peterson’s dark blue Mercedes-Benz. Peterson fled northeast and ran along the perimeter of the hotel.
“He has something in his hands. Be careful, it might be a gun,” one law enforcement agent can be heard saying on radio traffic.
Task force detectives ordered Peterson to stop. Officers told investigators they saw Peterson drop the Glock 40-caliber handgun, then pick it back up and continue to run. He headed southwest. Detectives stopped following and requested backup, investigators said.
Peterson ultimately arrived at a former U.S. Bank parking lot along Highway 99 in Hazel Dell, where he contacted more police. A deputy standing about 10 yards away, according to investigators, told him to drop his gun.
Peterson turned and ran north, investigators said. In the release, they stated witnesses “reported hearing” the deputies’ commands. Witness statements have not yet been made public.
Investigators cite the interviews with deputies for what transpires next. Peterson ran and allegedly pointed a gun at them. All three deputies “believed that Peterson Jr. posed a lethal threat to either themselves or other responding officers,” investigators said.
Gunfire erupted shortly after that.
“The deputies told investigators Peterson Jr. had aimed his firearm at them while multiple gunshots were going off around them,” investigators said. “They believed Peterson Jr. had fired or had already shot at them.”
Video footage shows Peterson lurch forward as he is running. He falls to the ground. Troy Brightbill, chief criminal deputy for the Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office, who is leading the investigation, told OPB they weren’t able to determine if Peterson was shot as he ran.
“Shots were fired while Peterson was running, then again after he fell, sat up and reportedly pointed the gun at deputies again,” Brightbill said. “We aren’t able to definitively say at what point(s) he was hit.”
Security camera footage shows Peterson sitting up, extending his arm with an object in his hand. Investigators said he “reportedly pointed his handgun at the deputies.” A second volley of gunshots followed.
Law enforcement has not released an autopsy of Peterson showing where the bullets struck him.
The three officers involved, detectives Jeremy Brown and Robert Anderson and deputy Jon Feller -- fired 34 shots at Peterson. Four struck, investigators said.
Records obtained by OPB show the three officers were all interviewed at least a week after the shooting. Brown was interviewed on Nov. 5, Anderson on Nov. 6 and Feller on Nov. 9 -- 11 days after the shooting.
Brightbill said the delay was not ideal.
“I’ll have to refer you to the deputies’ attorneys regarding the delay in scheduling interviews,” Brightbill said. “We wanted those interviews to occur sooner, but those were the earliest dates they were available.”