When Clark County Sheriff’s Deputy Holly Troupe looked through the passenger side window of Jenoah Donald’s car, she peered into a cluttered cabin.
The night of Feb. 4, when Donald was stopped for a broken tail light in Hazel Dell and was ultimately shot and killed, the passenger seat held a Kobalt power drill, an open bag of hi-chews candy, an iPhone, CD jewel cases, a wrench and other bric-a-brac. On the center console, a screwdriver.
A Vancouver Police Department spokesperson said Friday they believe the screwdriver is the object that Troupe saw that night when she recounted to investigators that she grew worried about a “ball-handled object with a three- to four-inch sharpened stake on the end.”
The department released four new photos of Donald’s vehicle on Friday, showing a passenger-side view of the car before items were removed during the investigation, as well as a layout of all the items recovered. Investigators recovered the items executing a search warrant on Feb. 23.
“Based on what detectives later located in the vehicle, through the search warrants, they believe it’s likely the ‘ball handled’ object is a screwdriver,” Vancouver police spokesperson Kim Kapp said.
The photos shed some light on Donald’s death that night. The death of the 30-year-old Donald comes just a few months after Clark County Sheriff’s deputies fatally shot another Black man, Kevin Peterson Jr., during an attempted drug sting last October.
Unlike Peterson, however, there have been no substantial witnesses to Donald’s death. The traffic stop also occurred in a residential neighborhood, near the intersection of Northeast 68th Street and Northeast 2nd Avenue, making it less likely a security camera captured the encounter.
Investigators decided to release photos of the car due to several requests to see the “ball-handled object” in particular, Kapp said.
The object, and Troupe’s perception of it, appears to have played a significant role in how the traffic stop escalated. After Deputy Sean Boyle stopped Donald’s car, he reportedly contacted Donald and received identification and went back to his patrol vehicle.
Troupe, a deputy with one-and-a-half years of experience at the agency, approached the passenger side window, investigators said. She saw the “ball-handled,” then started asking Donald to show his hands. Investigators say Donald then reached back behind him and then held up metal pliers and a cell phone.
Boyle then became aware of the “escalation” at Donald’s vehicle, investigators said and returned. Boyle reportedly asked Donald to exit the car and even warned Donald that law enforcement could send a police dog at him.
According to investigators and a Feb. 10 search warrant affidavit, deputies tried to forcefully remove Donald from the car, and he struggled. They used force but told investigators it had “no effect.”
Records show Boyle punched Donald in the nose at one point, to which Donald said “Really?” according to the affidavit.
During the ensuing struggle, according to investigators, Donald’s car began to move. Donald reportedly pulled on Boyle’s ballistics vest. Boyle pulled out his firearm and warned Donald he would shoot. Boyle then fired twice, striking Donald once.
Donald spent a week on life support. He died around 2 a.m. on Feb. 12. Besides searching Donald’s car, investigators also executed a search warrant on Donald’s medical records, records show.
Mark Lindquist, an attorney for Donald’s family, questioned why investigators executed a second search warrant on the car almost two weeks after searching it the first time. He said it illustrated that it showed “there was no reason for police to escalate the situation.”
”Police didn’t seize the screwdriver in the first search. This is presumably because the deputy didn’t describe seeing a screwdriver. Other officers apparently thought the screwdriver was irrelevant,” said attorney Mark Lindquist. “If they believed a standard screwdriver was a weapon, they would have seized it in the first search.”
Investigators said second searches are “not uncommon.”
Both Donald’s and Peterson’s deaths continue to concern local civil rights groups. On Friday, a coalition condemned their deaths and called on the state Attorney General and the Washington Department of Justice to investigate both cases.
“As community members and taxpayers, we deserve and demand a functional, accountable, transparent Clark County government that exercises its power fairly, justly, competently, and without bias,” the coalition said. “That, however, does not reflect the reality, and we will not rest until it does.”