VANCOUVER, Wash. (KOIN) — The Clark County prosecuting attorney determined a Vancouver police officer acted lawfully when he shot and killed a 16-year-old boy.
On February 19, 2019, Clayton Joseph was involved in a fight in the parking lot of an apartment complex in the 1200 block of SE Ellsworth Road.
According to Clark County Prosecutor Tony Golik’s report, the fight started between Joseph’s older brother and the brother’s girlfriend. During the altercation, witnesses said the younger Joseph threatened them with a knife. At least one witness said Joseph confronted him about calling the police.
When officers arrived, Cpl. Roger Evans said he ordered Joseph to stop and show him his hands, according to the report. Evans said Joseph “brought his right hand forward revealing a knife in his right hand.” Evans said he and Joseph were about 15 feet apart. Evans said he yelled, “Drop the knife,” but instead Joseph “raised the knife in the stabbing motion” and stepped toward him “in a sudden aggressive manner.” Evans fired one round at the teen, who fell to the ground, according to the report.
Golik wrote in his report that “Officer Evans was clear in his interview that he felt he had no reasonable option other than to fire his weapon at the moment he did.”
According to the report, physical evidence located at the scene was consistent with Evans’ statements. A knife that appeared to be a kitchen steak knife was found on the ground next to where Joseph fell. Crime scene detectives estimated a distance of about 15 feet from Joseph to where Evans fired his gun.
A toxicology report did not find evidence of drugs or alcohol in Joseph’s system.
Golik also wrote about Joseph’s prior assault conviction involving an incident with a knife. In October 2018, Joseph apparently used a knife to threaten two brothers near his apartment, then walked to Ellsworth Elementary school where he punched a 14-year-old boy and threatened him with the knife. Two maintenance workers intervened, taking Joseph to the ground as police arrived. Police reports indicate Joseph was intoxicated and upset because “his mother was with a man he did not like. Clayton indicated to the police that he was suicidal.”
Golik concluded his report by writing, “Although the loss of Clayton Joseph’s life was tragic, the conduct of Officer Evans was reasonable, justifiable and lawful in this case.”