Vancouver drops most charges for protesters after Kevin Peterson Jr.’s death

By Troy Brynelson (OPB)
Feb. 18, 2021 10:19 p.m. Updated: Feb. 19, 2021 7:23 p.m.

City attorney says protesters charged didn’t endanger others or damage property. Gunshots and crowd sizes also made proving cases difficult.

The city of Vancouver has dropped criminal charges for most of the people arrested at October protests over the police killing of Kevin Peterson Jr.

Hundreds marched through the city from Oct. 30 to Nov. 1 to protest Peterson’s death. Two Clark County Sheriff’s Office detectives and a deputy shot and killed the 21-year-old Black man during an attempted drug sting in the community of Hazel Dell.


The ensuing unrest included some clashes around Vancouver between racial justice protesters and right-wing groups. Attendees to a vigil for Peterson also reported being maced by counter-protesters. At least one counter-protester was filmed firing a gun into the air.

The eight people arrested faced charges of failure to disperse when the Vancouver Police Department tried to break-up the crowds around Esther Short Park. Some storefront windows in the area were broken that weekend.

Vancouver City Attorney Jonathan Young said the city decided to drop five individuals’ charges on Feb. 12. He said the city’s investigations over the last three months found those five hadn’t endangered others nor damaged property.


“In the weeks that have followed since then, our prosecutors have been in contact with defense counsel and been gathering information and evidence along the way,” Young said.

Young declined to say what evidence or information came to light to drop charges in the cases. He said footage of the nights and statements by American Civil Liberties Union observers did “fill in some of the pieces of information.”

Young also noted some of the charges were harder to prove because of confusion at the time. The night someone fired gunshots in the air, he said, people weren’t sure which direction was safe to travel as police ordered the crowd to leave. The crowd sizes also made it hard to move in a “safe and orderly manner.”

“There were a number of factors that made proving these cases beyond a reasonable doubt very difficult,” Young said.

He later added: “The videos we were given did certainly indicate to us there were a lot of competing concerns for those who were present at the time trying to find a safe way to move away from Esther Short Park.”

Three individuals’ cases are still moving forward. Young declined to elaborate because those are active cases, but said it’s possible the investigation yields separate charges than failure to disperse. OPB is not naming those with active cases due to the incomplete status of the investigation.

The Vancouver Police Department is still investigating the individual caught on camera firing a gun into air, Young said.