The family of Clayton Joseph, the 16-year-old boy shot and killed by a Vancouver police officer, is providing more details on what happened at Tuesday night’s shooting in East Vancouver.
Joe Enlet, Joseph’s uncle and the Consul General for the Federated States of Micronesia based in Portland, spoke with OPB about the family’s account of the shooting.
According to the boy’s mother, Enlet said, the incident was sparked by an argument between Joseph’s older brother and his brother’s girlfriend at the family’s home at the Sterling Heights apartment complex. The couple’s fight moved outside, prompting a neighbor to call the police and report a domestic disturbance.
Enlet said the mother and Joseph had gone outside to try and diffuse the situation. A family friend, Conner Bloxham, had previously told OPB that Joseph had been trying to intervene to protect his older brother’s girlfriend during the fight.
According to a statement from the Vancouver Police Department, officers arrived around 11 p.m. and shot Joseph after he brandished a knife and did not respond to requests to drop it.
The Columbian reported Friday that Joseph had recently pleaded guilty to an assault involving a knife.
Enlet said the boy’s mother also witnessed Joseph’s older brother fall to the ground during the shooting incident, and believes an officer tased him. It’s unknown whether the older brother was holding a weapon.
Police department spokesperson Kim Kapp declined to answer additional questions or confirm the family’s account of events, saying in an email that “it is too early in the investigation to release any additional details, as all the interviews have not yet taken place.”
Joseph was treated at an area hospital after the shooting but did not survive. The Clark County Medical Examiner’s office said the teenager died of a gunshot wound to the chest and that his death has been ruled a homicide.
“The family is very shocked,” said Enlet, who had recently come from the family’s home and performed a prayer service. “The whole community is shaken up about this.”
Joseph and his family moved to Vancouver, Washington from the island state of Chuuk in Micronesia. Evergreen Public Schools confirmed Joseph was a student enrolled at Evergreen High School.
Enlet, originally from Chuuk, said a growing number of residents from the Federated States of Micronesia are moving to Portland and Vancouver in search of education and job opportunities.
“This will have a huge effect on the community, in terms of the people’s trust in the system, in law enforcement,” said Enlet. “People look to the law enforcement to feel safe and feel that they can be protected. But when something like this happens, it sends a message.”
Enlet said the family is still processing the loss of their son and are planning to hold a public service at their church in the near future. But they’re turning to the community to help fund the costs. A GoFundMe page has also been set up to assist the family.
“There are funeral costs. Most people in the Micronesian community do not have life insurance. They rely on community,” Enlet explained.
The Clark County Sheriff’s Office Regional Major Crimes Team is leading the investigation into the shooting and expects to release more details next week.
On Thursday, the Vancouver Police Department identified the involved officer as Cpl. Roger Evans, a 21-year veteran with the force. According to The Columbian, Evans was reprimanded for an off-duty incident in December 2007 when he drew his weapon during an argument with a shopkeeper.
Evans was uninjured and has been placed on critical incident leave, which is standard procedure for Vancouver Police.
Enlet said he and the rest of Joseph’s family are awaiting the release of the investigation, but emphasized that the Pacific Islander community deserves justice.
“I trust in the resilience of the community. I know that the community will survive this, but I also know that the community will remember this,” he said. “We feel that we deserve justice. When one person is affected, a whole community is affected.”