UPDATE (8:20 p.m. PT) — On Monday, investigators identified the man who shot and killed a Cowlitz County Sheriff’s deputy as 33-year-old Brian Butts, the half brother of a man who killed another police officer eight years ago.
Deputy Justin DeRosier, 29, was killed Saturday night while responding to a complaint about a mobile home parked on Fallert Road in Kalama, Washington.
Within minutes of arriving at the scene, DeRosier called dispatch to say he had been shot. He described the suspect and reported he had fled the scene. Emergency responders arrived shortly after and flew DeRosier by LifeFlight helicopter to PeaceHealth Medical Center in Vancouver, Washington, where he later died from his injuries.
Officers found Butts Sunday night after a manhunt that lasted nearly 22 hours. A neighbor had reported seeing a man leave a wooded area near Spencer Creek Road covered in mud and holding a firearm. He was shot by two Kelso police officers, Sgt. Rich Fletcher and Detective Tim Gower. Both are 24-year veterans on the force, and neither were injured, authorities said. They have been placed on administrative leave.
“We’re just glad that we’re able to let the community know that the danger is over and people are going to be brought to justice for this,” Sheriff Brad Thurman said.
Investigators also disclosed Monday that Brian Butts is the half-brother of Daniel Butts, who shot and killed Rainier Police Chief Ralph Painter eight years ago.
Daniel Butts pleaded guilty last month to that killing and received a life sentence.
Brian Butts has a lengthy criminal record that includes assault, second-degree burglary and drug convictions, according to Washington court records.
No further details on Butts’ death were released, pending an autopsy scheduled for Tuesday night.
Authorities also arrested two Kalama men – brothers Matthew and Michael Veatch – in connection with the shooting investigations. Matthew, 25, is being held with probable cause for rendering criminal assistance in the first degree. His older brother Michael, 33, was picked up for an outstanding Department of Corrections warrant and is being interviewed by investigators.
Prosecutors arraigned Matthew Veatch on Monday for allegedly providing support to Brian Butts after the shooting. According to the probable cause statement in the case, investigators say that shortly after Veatch heard gunshots, Butts showed up at his house disheveled and muddy.
Butts told Veatch he needed to get out of there and, according to court documents, gave him a handgun to “get rid of.”
Veatch told officers he put the gun in a safe in his bedroom and admitted to leading Butts on foot into the woods for several hours. As they were walking, Veatch said Butts told him that he had “shot a cop.” Veatch and Butts separated after about four hours, when Veatch left Butts at an abandoned barn, according to the documents.
A judge set Veatch’s bail at $50,000 and scheduled his next court date for April 30.
DeRosier is survived by a wife and a 5-month-old daughter, Lily. He was described as a dedicated officer who had a bright future in law enforcement.
“I’ve said before, it wouldn’t surprise me if someday he would have become sheriff himself,” said Thurman. “It’s going to be a huge void for us.”
Cowlitz County Undersheriff Darren Ullmann called DeRosier a local boy with deep roots in the Kelso community.
“There are few cops that who want to be a cop more than Justin did,” Ullmann said. “He loved his job. He was incredibly good at it. And as you can imagine, this is very personal for our agency.”
Community members in the tight-knit southwest Washington town are still reeling. Many left flowers and candles outside the county courthouse Monday. A framed photo of DeRosier surrounded by cards and notes sat outside the sheriff’s office. A group of law enforcement wives has arranged a meal train for DeRosier’s family, and more than $25,000 has been raised.
“He wanted to be a role model,” said Kelso High School principal Christine McDaniel. “It’s no surprise that he ended up in law enforcement, it’s the type of person that he was. He wanted to make a difference and to be what his community needed.”
McDaniel said she has known DeRosier since he was 6. Her sons played little league baseball and football with DeRosier, and she was even his seventh-grade health teacher. Over the years, she’s kept in touch with him and his family, especially since her husband is also a sheriff’s deputy.
“This has been a tough hit for all of us,” she said. “We feel safe in our community, and to be touched by that kind of violence is really tough.”
On Monday, authorities met with members of the Behind the Badge Foundation, a nonprofit that honors law enforcement killed in the line of duty. Preparations for a memorial are currently underway and more details will be announced in the coming days.