BY: BILL HUTCHINSON, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) — With tensions already running high over the fatal shooting of a 21-year-old Black man by sheriff’s deputies, protests this weekend in Vancouver, Washington, devolved into reported vandalism of businesses and fights between demonstrators demanding justice and members of right-wing groups that converged in the city.
Kevin Peterson Jr. was shot to death on Thursday evening by Clark County sheriff’s deputies in Hazel Dell, an unincorporated area of Vancouver, prompting consecutive nights of protests that led to at least six arrests early Saturday after authorities said some demonstrators ignored orders to disperse and began hurling rocks at law enforcement officers outside the Clark County Jail in Vancouver.
On Saturday night, members of a right-wing group gathered in Esther Park in Vancouver, prompting police to close the park. Those protesting Peterson’s shooting and counter-demonstrators stood on opposite sides of a downtown Vancouver street arguing as a large police presence attempted to prevent the confrontation from escalating into violence.
On Friday night, video taken by ABC affiliate KATU in Portland, Oregon, showed fights breaking out between protesters and counter-protesters in Vancouver following a vigil for Peterson.
Peterson was shot dead around 6 p.m. Thursday by three Clark County sheriff’s deputies in the parking lot of a bank in Hazel Dell, just north of downtown Vancouver, law enforcement officials said.
An independent investigation of the deadly encounter is being led by the Camas Police Department and the Southwest Washington Independent Investigative Response Team, which is comprised of certified peace officers and non-law enforcement community representatives.
During a brief news conference on Friday, Clark County Sheriff Chuck Atkins said the shooting unfolded as detectives of the Clark/Vancouver Drug Task Force were investigating suspected drug dealing in the parking lot of a motel in Hazel Dell. He said detectives spotted a man sitting alone in a car and as they approached the vehicle, the occupant got out and ran.
“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. It is my understanding that the man’s firearm was observed at the scene.”
The man who was killed was later identified by his family as 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. It is right and correct that the community would grieve along with this family,” Atkins said.
He said that the three deputies who opened fire on Peterson have been placed on administrative leave while the results of the investigation are pending, in keeping with standard protocol for officer-involved shootings. The names of the deputies have not been released.
Battle Ground, Washington, Police Chief Mike Fort, the spokesman for the Southwest Washington Independent Investigative Response Team, released a statement saying that during the initial foot chase, Peterson allegedly pointed a gun at the narcotics detectives, causing them to back off as he kept running.
Fort said a short time later, the three Clark County deputies spotted the man and all three fired their handguns. Fort did not say in the statement that Peterson fired at the deputies.
He said a .40-caliber Glock handgun was found near the body of Peterson, who was pronounced dead at the scene.
Peterson’s father, Kevin Peterson, told The Oregonian that his son “wasn’t a problem child at all” and said that he was “a good kid.” He said that his son, one of six siblings, played high school basketball and football.
Peterson’s death follows months of protests nationwide over a string of police killings of Black people, including George Floyd, who died on May 25 after a Minneapolis police officer was captured on cellphone video digging his knee into Floyd’s neck as the 46-year-old cried out, “I can’t breathe.”
Derek Chauvin, the ex-Minneapolis police officer accused of killing Floyd, has been charged with second and third-degree murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death. He was released from jail on $1 million bond, in early October.
The three other officers who were at the scene of Floyd’s death, Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng, have been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting manslaughter. They have all also been released from jail as the four former officers await their trial starting next March.
In March, Breonna Taylor was killed by police at her Louisville home. In September, a grand jury indicted one of the officers, Brett Hankison, on three counts of first-degree wanton endangerment for firing into the apartment directly behind Taylor’s, where three people were inside. Hankison pleaded not guilty. But none of the officers involved in Taylor’s death were charged in connection to her loss of life.
The Hazel Dell community is less than 20 miles from Portland, Oregon, where protests over Floyd’s death have turned violent and led to clashes with right-wing counter-protesters.
On Aug. 29, Aaron “Jay” Danielson, 39, a supporter of a right-wing group was shot to death in Portland allegedly during a confrontation with 48-year-old Michael Reinoehl, who claimed in an interview with Vice News that he was providing security for Black Lives Matter protests in Portland and shot Danielson in self-defense.
On Sept. 3, Reinoehl was shot to death in Lacy, Washington, by a federal fugitive task force attempting to arrest him on a second-degree murder charge stemming from Danielson’s killing.
ABC News’ Ahmad Hemingway contributed to this report.
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