Kevin Peterson family files wrongful death claim

Clark County

Kevin Peterson Jr was shot to death by Clark County deputies

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The family of Kevin Peterson Jr. announced plans to file a wrongful death claim against Clark County on Thursday morning.

Peterson’s parents and the mother of his child held a press conference, sharing memories of him and demanding justice. The family’s attorney, Mark Lindquist, said they mailed a claim on Wednesday in accordance with Washington law which requires a claim to be filed before a lawsuit.

“I’m very upset and I want justice,” said his mother, Tammi Bell. “He was a super, super nice guy. I want people to remember him.” Bell said she’s now lived through the winter holidays and a birthday without her son. “We are all sad, we are all at a loss. We are still looking at the door wondering when he is coming through,” she said. “I think it’s unfair that people are running scared and getting shot in the back by the police. I expect more from the police. I think they should diffuse it.”

The family said they want deputies to wear body cameras. Bell said that, as a Black woman, she’d feel safer if she was pulled over by an officer who was wearing a body camera.

“I would like for the officers who are involved in these shootings to be held accountable,” said Peterson’s father, Kevin Peterson Sr. He said his goal is to see that his son “gets justice for what was done to him.” Peterson Sr. said the investigation has been “handled poorly” and the family hasn’t heard anything from the Clark County Sheriff’s Office. Peterson Sr. said the family wants authorities to show them evidence that their son fired shots at officers.

Clark County Sheriff Chuck Atkins responded to the claim filed by the family, saying the sheriff’s office has had “no role in the investigation.”

The death of Kevin Peterson was a tragedy.  Our condolences are with the Peterson family.  Consistent with the new state law I-940, the Clark County Sheriff’s Office has had no role in the investigation. It is being handled by an outside agency. Also consistent with the new law, it is the responsibility of the independent investigation team to provide updates on the investigation.  The Clark County Sheriff’s Office has received updated information at the same time as the public.  Further, as required by the new law, the independent investigation team was to have named a family liaison to update the family on the investigation. We are awaiting a decision from the Pierce County prosecutors and we await the receipt of the Tort Claim, to evaluate it in more detail.

Clark County Sheriff Chuck Atkins

Olivia Salto, the mother of his child, said she hopes their daughter remembers him as the “great person” he was. Salto said Peterson was her best friend and his loss has been overwhelming. “He’s probably one of the best people I’ve ever met,” she said. “I went to him for everything.”

The initial task force completed the investigation and the prosecutor’s office is now reviewing it.

Earlier this week, a Clark County District Court judge took leave after comments he made about the Peterson case were picked up on a hot microphone.

“I have decided to take some time off to reflect on my behavior and to determine what I can do to help heal the community I have served,” Judge Darvin Zimmerman said in a statement. “I have self reported my statements to the Commission that oversees my actions as a jurist and will fully cooperate with their investigation. I want my colleagues and the public to know that I have accepted responsibility for my actions.”

The events of October 29, 2020

Clark County deputies shot and killed the 21-year-old on October 29, 2020 near the U.S. Bank on NE Highway 99 in Hazel Dell.

Officers with the regional drug task force were investigating Peterson for conspiracy to deliver controlled substances, according to court documents. Peterson was reportedly in contact with a confidential informant who tipped off authorities about Peterson’s plans to sell the informant 50 Xanax pills. The sale was set to take place at about 5:30 p.m. on Oct. 29 at the Quality Inn at 7001 NE Highway 99, according to a search warrant affidavit.

Detectives in unmarked cars activated their emergency lights and attempted to stop Peterson when he pulled into the Quality Inn parking lot, according to investigators, who added the detectives were wearing “tactical vests bearing law enforcement identification.”

Peterson fled on foot, detectives ordered him to stop, but he continued and dropped a handgun, according to SWIRT investigators. Detectives allegedly ordered him not to pick up the gun, but Peterson did and continued to run. Detectives did not pursue further, but advised other units by radio that Peterson was armed, investigators said.

WARNING: The video is graphic but available for viewing here.

As Peterson crossed the U.S. Bank property, deputies allegedly arrived and ordered him to stop. One deputy said Peterson pulled a handgun out of his sweatshirt pocket. The deputy said he ordered Peterson to drop the gun, but the other man kept walking. The deputy said he fired at Peterson as the man continued toward incoming units, according to investigators.

Another deputy said Peterson pointed the gun at him “while running northbound,” prompting him to fire at Peterson. Video from the bank showed Peterson fall, then sit up and point the gun, according to investigators.

Clark County Sheriff deputies at the scene of a deputy-involved shooting that left Kevin Peterson Jr. dead, October 29, 2020 (KOIN)

Deputies again fired at Peterson and gave commands to drop the gun, according to the SWIRT report. Peterson “eventually set the handgun down,” but continued to “make some movements,” investigators said. Deputies allegedly called for more units to approach Peterson with a shield due to him having a handgun within reach.

About five minutes after shots were fired, deputies rendered first aid to Peterson, according to the SWIRT report.

Peterson was in possession of a Glock model 23 handgun that had one round chambered and one round missing from the magazine, according to investigators. At this time, detectives do not have evidence that Peterson fired the gun while in the U.S. Bank lot, according to the SWIRT report.

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