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Saturday, April 4, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Crime/Public Safety

Spokane County prosecutor rules deputy was justified in shooting, killing man in May

UPDATED: Fri., Oct. 25, 2019

Justine Murray pauses on a rock cliff with cut flowers, Thursday, May 9, 2019, on the site where her son Ethan Murray was shot and killed by a Spokane County deputy on Saturday May 4, in Spokane Valley, Wash. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Justine Murray pauses on a rock cliff with cut flowers, Thursday, May 9, 2019, on the site where her son Ethan Murray was shot and killed by a Spokane County deputy on Saturday May 4, in Spokane Valley, Wash. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

The Spokane County Prosecutor’s Office determined Spokane County Sheriff’s deputy Joseph Wallace was justified in shooting and killing Ethan Murray, 25, during a May incident at a Spokane Valley apartment complex.

Deputies responded to a report of a disorderly male, later identified as Murray, in the area of the Parkside Apartments at Mirabeau at about 5:30 p.m. on May 4, 2019, according to a news release.

He was reportedly wearing no shirt and running between kids playing outside, according to a news release. No weapons were seen and an assault did not occur, but Murray appeared to be high on an unknown substance.

Murray, who lived in a small homeless camp in the woods nearby, was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2015 and began using methamphetamine around the same time, according to his mother, Justine Murray.

When Wallace responded to the scene in May, adults were congregating outside and a woman waved the deputy over to point him toward Wallace, who was “threatening the children out here,” the woman said.

Wallace saw Murray moving quickly toward a wooded area nearby and noticed he was reaching around his waistline, according to a news release. Wallace gave several commands for Murray to stop throughout the chase and Murray responded with expletives.

Deputies do not wear body cameras.

Wallace lost sight of Murray as he went over a large rock on a hill and Wallace took a different route to try to cut Murray off, according to a news release.

Wallace and Murray came face to face within a few feet from one another at the top of the rock, according to a news release. Wallace gave another command to stop and Murray said, “F—- you! Make me!” and balled up his fists as he went into a fighting stance.

Wallace readied his gun in a low position and alerted dispatch as Murray lunged in the deputy’s direction after each word, according to a news release.

Wallace told Murray to show him his hands repeatedly and Murray declined, according to a news release.

Wallace told Murray, “You have to stop. I don’t want to hurt you. Just put your hands up,” according to a news release.

Murray said, “Just you and me,” and reached his right hand towards his right pants pocket and took out what appeared to be a knife, according to a news release.

Murray did not comply when Wallace told him to put it down and he advanced toward the deputy with the object in his fist, according to a news release. Believing he was going to be stabbed, Wallace pointed his pistol at Murray and fired, striking him several times.

Murray died at the scene, according to a news release.

A subsequent investigation determined Murray had a pair of black sunglasses in his hand, not a knife, according to a news release.

One witness said they heard Wallace repeatedly say “Put it down” and saw Murray pull something out of his pocket before the deputy fired his weapon, according to a previous news release.

A woman told The Spokesman-Review her husband saw Murray climb through a hole in a fence to get to the woods, followed by the deputy. He lost sight of the chase and said he heard several loud pops, then a deputy say, “Hands up.”

The prosecutor’s office determined Wallace was justified in shooting Murray because the law takes into account that he could reasonably believe Murray posed a threat of serious bodily harm, according to a news release.

Wallace has since returned to work in the sheriff’s office patrol division, said Cpl. Mark Gregory, a sheriff’s spokesman.

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