PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Sunday afternoon, demonstrators gathered outside of the Washington State Capitol Legislative Building in Olympia to demand justice for Portland hiker Aron Christensen and his dog, who were found dead in Central Washington last fall.
In August 2022, 49-year-old Christensen and his 4-month-old puppy Buzzo joined a group of friends for a camping trip in Central Washington near Walupt Lake. On Friday, Aug. 19, friends say the two left for an overnight hike on a nearby trail.
KOIN 6 previously reported that Christensen and Buzzo were supposed to return by noon the following day, when friends saw flashing police lights at a neighboring campground.
“We saw the cop car and my friend and I walked over to the police officer and said, ‘we’re expecting a friend. At what point should we contact you or get worried?’” friend Kate Meredith said. “He said, ‘you have to wait 24 hours,’ and I said, ‘it’s been at least 24 hours.’ He asked if he was hiking alone and I said no, he has his dog. And I could just tell, I could see it in his face that something was not right.”
A few hours later, the campers were notified that both Christensen and his dog were found dead by fellow hikers. According to a medical examiner, he died of a gunshot wound to his chest.
About two months after Christensen’s death, his family reached out to KOIN 6 and said they’d received little information on why he had been shot.
In October 2022, the Lewis County Coroner ruled Christensen’s death a homicide. Shortly after, the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office identified 20-year-old Ethan Michael Asbach and an unnamed 17-year-old girl as the prime suspects in his death.
According to LCSO, the suspects told investigators they heard growling and saw the eyes of what they believed to be a wild animal during a hike on the night of Aug. 19. Law enforcement says Asbach and the girl then opened fire, before seeing Christensen and Buzzo dead.
LCSO reports that the suspects continued to hike that night and took a wrong path, before leaving the woods the following day.
Back in October, Lewis County officials said the suspects would face charges of 1st-degree manslaughter and animal cruelty. But earlier this month, Lewis County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office told KOIN 6 that there isn’t enough evidence to charge the suspects.
About 30 protesters, including some of Christensen’s friends from Portland and concerned Lewis County citizens, gathered in Olympia this Sunday afternoon to bring more attention to the case.
At the Washington State Capitol Building, protesters handed out business cards and held signs that read statements such as “Seems like murder is legal in Lewis County” and “Do your job, lock them up.”
The demonstrators started their protest outside on the steps of the Legislative Building, then made their way indoors before heading back outside to hold their signs on Capitol Way.
Christensen’s friends previously said that he was the ‘steady guy’ among their group, so they plan to be steady in their fight for justice.