Self-defense ‘reasonable’ when suspect pulled gun
No charges will be filed against a Stevens County sheriff’s deputy who shot a burglary suspect as he was in bed reaching for a gun.
Deputy Travis Frizzell was justified in believing Trinidy Capone Lopez, 24, posed a serious threat during the March 5 confrontation, according to Stevens County Prosecutor Tim Rasmussen, who decided against filing criminal charges after reviewing the police investigation.
Deputies were trying to question Lopez about vehicle prowlings outside a Stevens County bar.
“While Frizzell had no duty to retreat, retreat was impossible due to his close proximity to Lopez and the narrow stairway he would have to negotiate to get to a place of protection,” Rasmussen wrote. “He had no other reasonable choice than to protect himself from the threat presented to him by Trinidy Lopez and his firearm.”
Frizzell, who has worked in law enforcement for six years, was on paid leave for about two weeks after the shooting but returned to work in March and continues to patrol the area, said Stevens County Sheriff Kendle Allen.
Allen called Rasmussen’s ruling “the right decision.”
Frizzell and Deputy Greg Gowin, a four-year veteran, were investigating car prowlings near Luke’s BBQ and the Loon Lake Saloon and Grill when witnesses identified Lopez as a suspect. A .380 Taurus pistol was stolen from one of the cars, and the deputies had been told Lopez was “very intoxicated,” Rasmussen said in a five-page report reviewed Tuesday by The Spokesman-Review.
Lopez also had a felony warrant in Spokane County for drug and theft charges, which gave an address of 4359 E. Deer Lake Road in Stevens County.
The home belongs to Lopez’s parents; Lopez lived in a basement apartment. Frizzell and Gowin, wary of the report that Lopez had stolen a firearm, announced their presence and entered the apartment with their guns drawn. They noted items stolen from the cars outside Luke’s bar, including a stereo, GPS unit and checkbook. Gowin detained two people in the basement as Frizzell went into the main home to search for Lopez.
Lopez’s mother directed Frizzell to a spiral staircase that led to a loft over the kitchen area. Frizzell used his flashlight as he entered the narrow room, where he saw Lopez sleeping on the bed. With his weapon drawn, Frizzell yelled “Trinidy, sheriff’s office” before Lopez sat up, cursed at him and laid back down. Frizzell kicked Lopez’s foot and again told him to get up. Lopez again sat up but pulled his right arm from under the pillow and displayed a gun.
Frizzell reportedly told Lopez to “drop the gun,” and Lopez laid down but again sat up and brought the gun “around in a sweeping motion to point it at Frizzell,” according to Rasmussen’s report.
Frizell fired his weapon two or three times, then again when he saw Lopez still had the gun in his hand and was bringing “his arm up and around again,” according to the report. Lopez fell back on the bed and dropped the gun, which Frizzell kicked away before handcuffing Lopez. The gun, which police confirmed was stolen in the car prowlings, had four rounds but none in the chamber, according to the report.
Gowin said he heard Lopez’s mother “say that she heard Frizzell say three times, ‘put the gun down,’ ” Rasmussen said.
Lopez, who has not been charged in connection with either the vehicle prowlings or the confrontation with deputies, told The Spokesman-Review in March that he didn’t steal anything and was sleeping in his bedroom when he awoke to the deputy shooting him.
He was hospitalized with gunshot wounds but is recovering. He did not return messages seeking comment.
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