After two unarmed black men were shot by a white police officer in Olympia, Wash., early Thursday morning, hundreds of protesters marched at city hall, carrying “Black Lives Matter” signs and chanting, “No justice, no peace.”
Stepbrothers Andre Thompson, 24, and Bryson Chaplin, 21, were accused of assault after a grocery-store employee called 911 and reported that the men had thrown bottles of beer after being accused of shoplifting the items, according to police.
An officer stopped the men nearby because they matched the description given by the store employee; in the confrontation, both men were shot and seriously injured by the officer. They remain hospitalized; Thompson was in serious but stable condition, and Chaplin was in critical condition on Thursday evening, according to police. They are expected to survive.
Olympia Police Chief Ronnie Roberts briefed reporters on the incident and counseled patience from the community.
“There’s no indication to me that race was a factor in this case at all,” Roberts said.
“All lives matter,” the police chief added. “It’s unfortunate that an officer was involved in a situation where he believed he had to use deadly force. Now, the investigation will determine whether or not that was an appropriate use of force. I won’t be able to do that today for you.”
But members of the community and protesters carrying signs that said “Race is a Factor” and “We Are Grieving” disagreed, according to the Associated Press.
“Does the punishment fit the crime?” Merritt Long, a retired chairman of the state’s liquor control board, wondered on Seattle’s ABC affiliate. “Given the seeming epidemic of this happening not only here but in our country, it makes you pause and wonder what’s going on.”
According to authorities, Olympia police officers were called to a Safeway store in response to an assault just before 1 a.m. Thursday morning. About 15 minutes later, officer Ryan Donald, 35, stopped two men who matched the description of the assailants, according to police.
Within two minutes, Donald radioed that shots had been fired. According to police, Donald shot a suspect from “the back of the patrol vehicle.”
“I believe one of them is hit, both of them are running,” Donald told the dispatcher, according to a recording released by police.
Asked if either of them had a weapon, Donald responded: “No.”
“He was assaulting me with a skateboard; I tried to grab his friend,” Donald said. “They’re very aggressive, just so you know.”
Both men fled across the roadway to a wooded area, police said. After they reemerged on the roadway, “another confrontation took place with the police officer,” Roberts said. More shots were fired, and the second person was struck, the chief said.
“It was terrible,” their mother, Crystal Chaplin, told CBS affiliate KIRO. “It’s heartbreaking to see two of my babies in the hospital over something stupid.”
The officer was placed on administrative leave while the investigation is pending. He was not injured, according to police.