A 21-year-old man shot to death by a Colville police officer late Saturday was raised by a computer analyst and an elementary school teacher in a small town near Bakersfield, Calif., before embracing what his father described as a “transient” lifestyle.
Few details about the shooting death of Sean Joseph Bergstrasser have been released, including what prompted the officer to open fire. Police were called to investigate a report of a vehicle prowler near Benny’s Colville Inn, 915 S. Main Street, about 11:30 p.m., Colville Police Chief Robert Meshishnek said.
An autopsy Monday by the Spokane County Medical Examiner’s Office concluded Bergstrasser died of multiple gunshot wounds.
The officer involved has not been publicly identified. He is scheduled to be interviewed Tuesday, said Trooper Troy Briggs, spokesman for the Washington State Patrol, which is leading a multi-agency investigation team.
Investigators say they recovered a firearm at the scene, but Briggs said he didn’t know if it belonged to Bergstrasser.
“That may still be under investigation,” he said.
Bergstrasser’s father, Mark Bergstrasser, a computer systems analyst who lives with his wife, a fifth-grade teacher, in Wasco, Calif., said he never knew their son to own a firearm.
“Sean has never owned a firearm,” he said. “Where the handgun actually came from is a question I have. I don’t know.”
He said his son moved to Washington last year to be close to his brother, who was stationed with the Army at Fort Lewis. Bergstrasser has another brother in the Army, too, his father said.
Bergstrasser joined a job corps program that brought him to Eastern Washington, but he was kicked out and moved to the Colville area.
“He’s been doing the transient thing since about 2009,” said Mark Bergstrasser. “He wasn’t raised that way, so it’s really kind of hard for me to understand why he chose that, but he just always seemed comfortable with it.”
Bergstrasser isn’t sure how his son was finding money but suspects he may have turned to petty criminal activity. He was charged in August with misdemeanor car prowling and possession of stolen property; he pleaded guilty to the last charge Nov. 1 and was credited for 31 days already served in jail. He also was ordered to pay $43 restitution
He talked to his father and grandparents Friday and said he’d gotten a room for the night at Benny’s Colville Inn. He talked to one of his brothers Saturday night “just not too long before the incident occurred,” his father said.
“He was very upbeat and seemed normal, so I’m not really sure what occurred over the weekend,” Mark Bergstrasser said.
Bergstrasser graduated from Wasco High School in 2008. He enjoyed drifting and not having a job; he also was a heavy drinker who enjoyed smoking marijuana, his father said.
“I wouldn’t consider him a hippie,” Mark Bergstrasser said. “He was actually more of a rapper.”
The family is planning a memorial Friday at a church in Wasco. Bergstrasser’s grandfather is a retired pastor.