Another dribble of truth in Peterson case

The Clark County law enforcement authorities are sure acting like one or more sheriff deputies are guilty of something in connection with the October 29 killing of Kevin Peterson, Jr. Yesterday the district attorney up there got around to releasing a less-edited security cam video of the fatal shooting from across the street. The fuller video had to be pried out of their hands by a public records request, and they released the footage on a Friday, when news coverage would receive the least amount of attention.

That's the behavior of someone who knows they're in the wrong. They did the same thing with the initial batch of information they gave up in the case – on Thanksgiving Eve. I wouldn't be surprised if they're waiting for Christmas Eve to drop the full autopsy report on Peterson.

Anyway, the newly revealed tape confirms what was already apparent to some of us based on the earlier release: He was running away, and the first shot, and maybe others of the four that killed him, hit him in the back.

And the pile of documents that accompanied the latest information dump includes an admission of that fact by the deputy who fired the first shots.

He said as Peterson approached the southeast corner of the lot, he reached into his sweatshirt and pulled out a gun. [Deputy Robert] Anderson said he realized Peterson did not plan to give up.

“He’s gonna shoot it out with us, no doubt in my mind,” Anderson said.

He said he did not see what Peterson had done with the phone.

He said Peterson turned and headed north, where other Sheriff’s Office deputies had gathered to help contain the situation. Anderson said he feared Peterson is “gonna shoot one of 'em in the face. I know it’s gonna happen.”

He said he continued to give commands as Detective Jeremy Brown pulled into the lot.

He said he decided he would shoot Peterson if Peterson continued to run and ignore his commands.

“At that point, I kinda just drew the line in the sand and I was – I said, 'I’ve given suspect enough commands. If he takes another step, I’m gonna shoot him.'”

Peterson, he said, continued to run so he shot him.

In some respects, the story has changed again. Originally, the cops said they saw Peterson drop a gun, then pick it up. They also said he fired the gun at them. The latter assertion was completely false, and now it sounds as though the gun first appeared in the confrontation at the south end of the bank parking lot when the deputies pulled in and cut off any hope of escape at that end. Peterson didn't drop it and pick it up.

It seems as though all Anderson has left as a defense is that there were other cops at the north end of the bank property (none of whom have ever been identified, to my knowledge), and that Peterson, who was running away at full tilt, was going to shoot them. Peterson didn't shoot at Anderson or the other deputies that Anderson had pulled in with, but Anderson believed he was going to shoot other cops.

Is that reasonable cause to shoot the man in the back? 

Kevin Peterson’s father said the video shows his son’s back to police.

“But they shot him anyway,” Kevin Peterson said in a statement released by his lawyers. “They chased him down, trapped him, and killed him.”

Lara Hermann, a lawyer for Peterson’s family and his partner, said the video shows Peterson “wasn't a threat when he was shot.”

The Pierce County prosecutor's office is reviewing the case. That's the county that includes Tacoma. What will come of that review is beyond even a guess on my part. But I'd be shocked if anyone gets prosecuted, or disciplined beyond a slap on the wrist.

And that is why people protest.


  1. Compare it to the Rayshard Brooks killing at the Wendy's in Atlanta. Brooks grabbed a stun gun off the officers and fired it towards them as he ran away. As the chase continued an officer shot Brooks twice in the back. The next day the officer was fired and now faces 11 charges including felony murder. It's not the exact same situation but shooting someone in the back as they run away from you, has to be a major problem.

  2. This story's haunting me today so please allow me to unload a couple more points:

    1. It's clear when the officer says he was afraid Peterson would shoot one of the deputies he was running toward, he was trying to create a reasonable cause for his actions. What makes me think he's lying is the part where he says the deputy would be shot "in the face." That's a pattern I've seen where someone tries to bolster a fake story by amping up the vivid details. I'm not saying I know for sure but that's how it strikes me. This had more to do with a sudden impulse not to let the man get away. I believe the officer was caught up in the adrenaline rush of the chase.

    2. All year the Black Lives Matter movement has played a giant role in America. The name implies that black lives don't matter as much to police officers in many of these situations. It's called systemic racism because it's a baseline difference before any of the specific details enter into play.

    I believe that. I believe if this was a young white man running away the officer would be much more hesitant to shoot. I don't know how you fix that. Even with accountability you can wind up with a jury or DA who treats blacks differently than whites as well. It's a real problem.

    So for those who say the stats are being manipulated and there's actually less racism or at least not as much, I disagree. I'll say it again: If that young man had been white there is a significant chance that the officer would not have pulled the trigger.
    I believe that's the reality of it.

    1. When Anderson pulls into the bank parking lot, he's driving a little erratically, like he's rushing to stop a mass murder. This is over a kid with a baggie of Xanax pills. It seems like too much adrenaline, for sure.

      Anderson has also been quoted as saying that the suspect got off two shots at the police. That was false, and of course, it's hard to believe that he wouldn't know it was false when he said it. He also said he heard a mysterious "pop." The story line keeps changing. And that's with a week to get it straight. One cop wasn't interviewed for 11 days.

      One thing I don't understand: Brown was already in the bank parking lot. He looks like he was about to pull out. Why didn't he know that the suspect was standing right behind him?

    2. I'll tell you when I first really got it about race relations in America. Oh, I knew on some level but it really hit me one day. It was back when I was starting as a comedy writer and I wrote briefly for J.J. Walker. Now J.J. had seen society from a rare point of view: being on a hit TV show as a young African American.

      He'd call up from across the country somewhere and we'd watch a half a football game together while we chatted. Now, these stories were...dare I say "Dynamite"? I strongly urged them to make his act about what he had been through but he wasn't having it. He wanted to do topical political stuff like Leno. In fact there was a time when he had Leno and Letterman over at his house writing for him. And don't get me started about the Rodney Dangerfield stories. The man was a partying maniac. He also covered Bill Cosby and a whole bunch of other stuff that was fascinating. But he wouldn't go in this direction and I was already sending the political stuff to Leno. So it faded out.

      The point here is that while I was writing for him, I'd often be in the persona of a black man. And though it sounds hopelessly naive of me, something dawned on me that I never truly got before: If your premise is a guy is walking down the street in America, that's one thing. But as soon as a you say a black guy is walking down the street in America, everything changes. It feels automatically like something bad is about to happen to him, doesn't it?

      Just being black in America is inherently dangerous. That never really struck me before that day - not in that way. This systemic racism thing is real and pretending it isn't is just crazy. This young man in Hazel Dell was in trouble from the moment he arrived in that parking lot simply for being black. A white person with a gun selling drugs would also be in trouble but I doubt they'd get shot in the back as they tried to run away.


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