Bainbridge police were justified in shooting a man who led officers on a high-speed chase through downtown after fleeing from the scene of a drug overdose in February, according to Kitsap County Prosecuting Attorney Tina R. Robinson.
Robinson reviewed the Feb. 7 incident — which ended with an officer shooting a Port Orchard man in downtown Winslow after authorities said he taunted officers with a knife before lunging at a Bainbridge policeman who was trying to get him out of his car — and said in a Dec. 3 memo that the use of deadly force against the man was “both lawful and justified.”
Robinson notified the Bainbridge Island Police Department of her decision via a Dec. 3 memo to Bainbridge Police Chief Matthew Hamner.
The man shot by police, Brandon Thomas Roberts, was later charged with first-degree assault with a deadly weapon after he allegedly hit a Bainbridge police officer with his car while trying to escape from police during the February incident. He remains in Kitsap County Jail, with bail set at $1 million.
The police chase and shooting began after officers were called to the parking lot of Ordway Elementary in the early afternoon of Feb. 7 after a witness reported a woman on the ground in the school’s parking lot.
Police arrived to find a woman lying on the pavement next to the passenger side door of a 2010 Ford Mustang, with Roberts leaning over the woman and trying to give CPR.
Roberts allegedly told police the woman had overdosed on heroin. One Bainbridge officer took over CPR while another officer gave the woman two doses of Narcan to revive her.
Police said Roberts began pacing back and forth, but they asked him to move to get out of the way of an EMS unit that had arrived on the scene.
Instead, Roberts jumped in his Mustang and started it.
Robinson’s memo includes new details on the events before the shooting and after.
Roberts started arguing with an officer who told him not to move his car, and when he reached between the driver’s seat and the center console of the car, police were worried that he was reaching for a weapon.
One Bainbridge officer pulled his service weapon out, pointed it at Roberts, and told him to turn off the car and show his hands.
Roberts refused, authorities said, then rapidly sped away from the scene, hitting the Bainbridge officer in the left knee with his vehicle as he escaped.
A Bainbridge officer began to chase the fleeing Mustang, but terminated the pursuit as the Mustang got close to city hall and downtown Winslow.
Roberts was trapped in his Ford Mustang on Winslow Way minutes later after he tried to make a U-turn near Winslow Green and an officer rammed his car.
According to court records, Roberts locked himself inside his Mustang and refused to come out.
Roberts allegedly shouted obscenities at police and raised a middle finger at them. He then yelled “Lemme do this!” as police tried to get him out of his car. Roberts continued to yell obscenities as police as he pulled out a syringe and began to inject himself in his left forearm.
A sheriff deputy tried to break a passenger window of the car, but was unsuccessful. He then used a “slim jim” to open the passenger door.
Robinson’s memo said Roberts then lit a cigarette and began to reach for something with his right hand, which disappeared from the view of the Bainbridge officer next to the car.
The sheriff’s deputy then saw Roberts had grabbed a knife with a 6-inch blade, and multiple officers began to yell at him to drop the weapon.
Robinson said Roberts was still holding the knife when he tried to get out of the Mustang through the passenger side of the vehicle in an attempt to attack police.
The prosecuting attorney said the Bainbridge officer feared for his safety, as well as the safety of his fellow officers and the public, and then shot Roberts twice in the chest “to stop the armed suspect’s attack.”
In her memo, Robinson said the use of force was justifiable and lawful “when necessarily used by a peace officer to arrest or apprehend a person who has committed a felony, if the officer has probable cause to believe that if not apprehended the suspect poses a threat of serious physical harm to the officer or a threat of serious physical harm to others.”
She added: “Robert’s flight from the scene of a recently revived drug-overdose patient, his erratic and reckless driving in eluding officers, his belligerent and confrontational behavior, his injection of narcotics in the presence of police officers, his arming himself with a knife, and then his final charge of ‘Let’s do this!’ reasonably placed Officer [Dale] Johnson in a position to believe that, if not apprehended, Roberts posed a threat of serious physical harm to him and others.”
A trial date of Jan. 27 has been set for Roberts, 43, who has previous felony convictions for burglary, attempting to elude, unlawful possession of firearms, and forgery, in addition to multiple misdemeanor convictions.
A total of 27 people from the Washington State Patrol and local law enforcement agencies have been named as witnesses for the trial, as well as 11 more people who were downtown and saw the shooting.