Clark County Sheriff Chuck Atkins says there is a lot he does not know about the deputy-involved shooting death of Camas resident Kevin Peterson Jr., which occurred around 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 29, in Hazel Dell.
“Under I-940 and the state law requirements of an independent investigation — all of which I support — it is is not my investigation and that means I am waiting along with you to learn much of the details,” Atkins said during a press conference held at 3 p.m. Friday, Oct. 30.
The sheriff said this is what he knows about the death of Peterson, 21, who was the father of a young daughter according to other media sources:
“Just before 6 p.m. (Thursday) detectives from the Clark/Vancouver Drug Task Force were conducting a narcotics investigation in the 6800 block of Northeast Highway 99. A foot pursuit ensued, where deputies from the Clark County Sheriff’s Office were chasing a man with a firearm,” Atkins said. “The information I have is that, upon entering the parking lot of a bank, the man reportedly fired his weapon at the deputies. The deputies returned fire and the subject was, tragically, killed.”
Atkins said he was told the man’s firearm was “observed at the scene.”
The sheriff said he is committed to ensuring “there is a complete, thorough, independent determination of what happened, how it happened and what can be learned” from the shooting death of Peterson.
“It’s important to relate that the loss of a young man’s life likely means there is a grieving father, mother and other family,” Atkins said. “It is right and correct that the community would grieve along with this family. … I believe that it is important that the family be kept updated as much as absolutely possible.”
Atkins urged community members to be “respectful and dignified observance of the loss of life in this matter.”
“There is always the potential for misinformation, doubt and confusion — and there may be those who wish to sow seeds of doubt,” Atkins said. “I am committed to the accountability and transparency expected of this community and by state law and stand prepared to do my part as sheriff in seeing that done.”
The investigation into Peterson’s death has been turned over to the Southwest Washington Independent Investigative Response Team, led by the Camas Police Department.
Camas Mayor Barry McDonnell refused to comment on the investigation or on the loss of a Camas resident, saying only, “as a matter of practice … our organization does not weigh in or comment on any active investigations.”
Asked if Camas city leaders planned to form a citizen oversight committee to update the public on the investigation, McDonnell said the independent investigative team “will be using selected citizens to meet the transparency requirement by law.”
Part of the Washington State Initiative 940 passed by Washington voters in November 2018, required “an independent investigation completely independent of the involved agency” in cases where police use of force resulted in death or substantial bodily harm.
The Southwest Washington team includes detectives from a variety of regional law enforcement agencies, including the Camas, Vancouver and Battle Ground police departments, the sheriff’s office and the Criminal Investigation Division of the Washington State Patrol.
The investigative response team also includes a minimum of two non-law enforcement community members who will be present at the briefings with the involved agencies and have access to the redacted investigative file after the prosecutor’s office has reviewed it.
McDonnell said the two non-law enforcement community representative positions were recruited earlier this year.
“There was a countywide recruitment to fill those citizen positions,” McDonnell said. “It was heavily advertised in both social media and in print media, and a list of people was developed who were willing to serve in that role.”
The Post-Record has reached out to Camas Police Chief Mitch Lackey and members of the Camas City Council for comment regarding the shooting death of Peterson.
This is a developing news story. The Post-Record will continue to post updates online at camaspostrecord.com and in our print editions, which publish every Thursday.