Spokane County prosecutors ruled today that a Spokane police officer was justified when he shot an armed man who had previously fired his gun three times and led officers in a vehicle pursuit.
Jack Driscoll, chief deputy criminal Spokane County Prosecutor, reviewed the case and determined that six-year veteran Officer Adam Valdez did not violate the law Feb. 5 when he shot and killed 52-year-old Jacob I. Dorfman on the lower South Hill.
“Officer Valdez had probable cause to believe that Mr. Dorfman posed a threat of serious physical harm,” Driscoll wrote in his opinion. “Mr. Dorfman had discharged his gun three times, had disregarded orders to drop his weapon, and had done everything he could to try to evade apprehension.
“He was threatening, or displaying a weapon that could reasonably be construed as threatening,” Driscoll continued, “towards a peace officer, when he raised his gun in the direction of Officer (Shawn) Kendall. Officer Valdez was justified in his use of deadly force.”
Police Chief Frank Straub said in a statement that the shooting demonstrates “the bravery of the men and women of the Spokane Police Department and their commitment to protect our community from those who threaten its safety.”
With the completion of the criminal investigation, the department will now conduct an internal investigation to determine whether Valdez followed policy and procedure, Straub said.
The incident began a few minutes after 1 a.m. on Feb. 5 when dispatchers received a report of shots fired near Eighth Avenue and Adams Street.
A witness who lives near the intersection said he saw a shirtless man pacing in the street and screaming for help before firing one shot from a handgun. Later interviews determined that Dorfman earlier had fired two shots at a man inside the apartment where he was staying.
As officers converged on the area, the witness said he saw an officer drive up to the intersection, identify himself as a police officer and ask the armed Dorfman to put his hands up. Dorfman then fled on foot, got in a Jeep and sped away from the area with officers in pursuit. He drove through several yards and fences.
Officers surrounded the Jeep just north of the parking lot of Huckleberry’s market at Ninth Avenue and Monroe Street.
In his report, Driscoll said Valdez saw Dorfman “had a gun in his right hand. He ordered him to drop the weapon, which was heard by multiple witnesses.”
Valdez then saw Dorfman raise the handgun and toward Kendall, who had parked directly in front of Dorfman’s Jeep.
“Fearing for Officer Kendall’s safety, as well as the general public, Officer Valdez decided to fire his gun, striking Mr. Dorfman in the torso five times, killing him,” Driscoll wrote.
Later tests showed that Dorfman had methamphetamines and oxycodone in his blood at the time of his death.
Records show Dorfman was arrested in 2005 on two counts of third-degree assault of a law enforcement officer. A year earlier, he was arrested for eluding a police officer and unlawfully issuing bank checks and was later sent to prison for robbery and burglary convictions out of Grant County.
Also in 2005, he was fined $100,000 and ordered to serve 90 days in jail for working as an unlicensed contractor.
Valdez is also currently under investigation for a second fatal shooting that occurred on May 16 in Nine Mile Falls.
In that case, Valdez was with fellow officers Danny Lesser and Jake Jensen when they shot homicide suspect Justin Cairns, 21, just minutes after they found 33-year-old Cyrus C. Jones shot and killed on West Grace Avenue.
Driscoll said Tuesday in an interview that he has not yet received the investigation from the Spokane County sheriff’s detectives, who are leading the investigation of the shooting by Spokane officers as part of the critical incident protocol.