OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Two stepbrothers suspected of trying to steal beer from a grocery store were not armed when they were shot early Thursday by a police officer who later confronted them in Washington state’s capital city.
The officer reported that he was being assaulted with a skateboard before the shooting that left one man critically injured and one in stable condition, authorities said.
Officer Ryan Donald was among those who responded around 1 a.m. to a call from a Safeway in Olympia, Police Chief Ronnie Roberts said at news conference. Employees said two men tried to steal beer and then threw the alcohol at workers who confronted the pair.
Officers split up to search for the suspects based on witnesses’ descriptions. Donald encountered two men with skateboards who fit the descriptions, and moments later, he radioed in that shots had been fired, the police chief said.
“We are committed to helping our community work through this difficult circumstance and help us understand this tragic event,” Roberts said.
One suspect was shot at the back of the police vehicle following a confrontation, Roberts said. Both men, one of them injured, then ran across the street, where the second suspect was shot multiple times in the torso.
Donald wasn’t injured but called in that he was being assaulted, Roberts said.
“What we do know is that officer over the air reported that he was being assaulted by a suspect with a skateboard,” he said.
The two men, ages 21 and 24, are hospitalized, and their identities have not yet been released, police said.
While the two men shot are black, and Donald is white, Roberts said he did not believe race was relevant to the case.
“There’s no indication to me that race was a factor in this case at all,” he said.
A string of high-profile killings of unarmed black men by police, including Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in New York City, have set off weeks of demonstrations and a national “Black Lives Matter” movement that has gained momentum across the country.
Olympia Mayor Stephen H. Buxbaum called for calm in the community.
“It deeply saddens me that we have two young people in the hospital as a result of an altercation with an officer of the law,” he said. “Let’s come together to support their needs, the officer’s needs, the needs of the families and our community’s needs. Let’s not be reactive.”
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