Spokane County prosecutors have ruled that a Spokane police officer didn’t break the law when he shot an armed man who had already fired his gun three times and had led officers on a vehicle chase.
Jack Driscoll, chief deputy criminal Spokane County Prosecutor, reviewed the case and determined that six-year veteran Officer Adam Valdez did not commit a crime when he shot and killed Jacob I. Dorfman on Feb. 5 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.”
Police Chief Frank Straub said in a news release that the incident demonstrated “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 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 a dispatcher received a report of shots fired near Eighth Avenue and Adams Street.
An eyewitness 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. 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. Instead, Dorfman 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.
Driscoll wrote that Valdez saw Dorfman “had a gun in his right hand. He ordered him to drop the weapon, which was heard by multiple witnesses.”
Valdez saw Dorfman raise the handgun toward Officer Shawn 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 methamphetamine and oxycodone in his blood system 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 later sent to prison for robbery and burglary convictions out of Grant County.
Valdez is under investigation for a second fatal shooting 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, shortly after Cyrus C. Jones was shot and killed on West Grace Avenue.
Driscoll said Tuesday that he has not received the investigation into that incident from Spokane County sheriff’s detectives, who are leading the investigation.