A man killed last week in Hunters, Washington, by a Stevens County deputy was shot in the back of the neck as he walked away, according to eyewitnesses.
Investigators say Jason Hale, 29, brandished a gun as he fled from deputies during the chaotic evening of Wednesday, Aug. 19 as wildfires burned in the area.
“The guy pulled out a gun and the deputy shot him,” said Spokane Police officer Teresa Fuller. “That’s as plain and as simple as it gets.”
Spokane police are involved in the investigation as part as a regional law enforcement team. The deputy who shot Hale was Cpl. Dave Reed. Hale had a felony warrant for malicious mischief second degree.
Witness accounts contradict the official statements from law enforcement.
“I never saw a gun be pulled, there was no fire exchange,” said Annette Herbert, a Hunters area resident. “He did not threaten the police officer. He was walking away.”
Herbert and her boyfriend Mick Schwartz were standing on the side of state Highway 25, outside of Schwartz’s business when they saw Hale walking down the street.
A deputy pulled up alongside Hale and got out of his car. He then tried to restrain Hale by “bear hugging” him. Hale “twisted away” and kept walking down the road, Herbert said.
“He was walking out of town,” she said.
The deputy called out to Hale twice telling him to stop or he would ‘shoot’ if he continued walking. At that point, Herbert said the deputy shot at Hale at least twice. Just a few seconds passed between the deputy’s final warning and the shooting, she said.
The Stevens County coroner reported that Hale was shot once in the left side of his neck. The bullet entered the back of his jaw.
Two deputies arrived on the scene shortly after the shooting, Herbert said. They took witness statements from Herbert and several other bystanders. Other witnesses, who wished to remain anonymous, confirmed the majority of Herbert’s account.
The next day the mother of Hale’s child put flowers on a patch of his dried blood, Herbert said. The blood hadn’t been scrubbed from the street as of Tuesday. Herbert said she called the police several times.
“They’ve never cleaned it,” she said. “They’ve not been back yet.”
A Spokane police press release to be released this evening reports that the incident began when deputies responded to a “domestic situation” in the 4900 block of Hunter-Shop Road. A temporary Red Cross shelter for fire evacuees has been set up in that block. Red Cross spokesman Colin Downey said Red Cross employees called the police after they were told there was a man with a gun outside.
Downey said Red Cross employees locked down the shelter, but was not sure if any shelter workers had seen the man with a gun. He did not have any more details about the incident, he said.
Officials say the man fled from deputies on foot, and then showed a firearm. One deputy fired and hit the suspect, the release said. Officials have not released the name of the deputy involved.
According to Fuller there were two 911 calls reporting that Hale had a gun and was suicidal. Fuller also said a third call reported that shots were fired in the area prior to the deputies arrival.
“He was a wonderful young man and he just had the biggest heart,” said Karin Montgomery the director of the West End Food Bank where Hale reportedly volunteered. “He didn’t always make the wisest choices in life but he was trying to do better for himself.”
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