By Diana Hefley and Scott North Herald Writers
EVERETT — The 2008 fatal shooting of a man by three Everett police officers is “unspeakably sad and tragic” but didn’t amount to a crime, Snohomish County prosecutor Mark Roe said Friday.
Roe concluded that Everett police officers Sunny Radosevich, Stephen Harney and Aaron Showalter were legally justified when they pulled their service weapons and shot Dustin Willard, 31, at his downtown Everett home.
Willard had come to the door armed with a loaded 12-gauge shotgun. The officers all said they opened fire after Willard failed to heed commands to drop his gun and instead leveled the weapon in their direction.
“When that shotgun was pointed towards them, they had a right to defend themselves, and a duty to defend each other,” Roe wrote in a letter to two detectives who led the investigation.
The investigation also showed that Willard was a hardworking Everett resident.
“He was not a criminal,” the prosecutor wrote. “Many people loved him, and will forever miss him. There is no reason to believe he even knew it was police who knocked at his door, or that he was thinking clearly.”
Willard was highly intoxicated and his judgment was impaired. He was not the kind of man who would have pointed a gun at police if he had been thinking clearly, Roe wrote.
What happened “was the heartbreaking product of that frequently deadly mixture of someone with alcohol-clouded judgment handling a firearm, not any kind of police misconduct,” he added.
Roe met with Willard’s family in December to discuss the investigation and answer their questions. The family in October filed a claim for damages with the city of Everett for up to $20 million, alleging the officers’ actions were negligent and reckless.
Angelo Calfo, a Seattle attorney who represents Willard’s family, declined to comment Friday on Roe’s decision.
The Everett officers were summoned to Willard’s home on Nov. 8, 2008, by a neighbor’s 911 call. Willard had been out drinking with friends. He apparently was locked out of his house. He kicked the front door and then stumbled loudly through his back yard before forcing his way through the back door.
Neighbors thought a burglar was breaking into Willard’s home. The 911 call was placed at 1:45 a.m.
The uniformed officers silently took up positions around the house and rang the doorbell, twice.
Willard opened the door carrying a loaded shotgun.
Three officers fired a total of 17 shots.
Willard was hit four times and died just inside the door of his home, according to reports prepared by detectives with the Snohomish County Multiple Agency Response Team.
The officers and Everett Fire Department paramedics unsuccessfully tried to revive Willard.
The officers who shot Willard said they opened fire after he didn’t immediately follow commands to drop the shotgun and pointed it at them. They said they were convinced he was about to kill them, documents show.
Each of the officers was questioned by investigators after they reviewed their statements with an attorney, the detectives’ report said.
Progress on the case was slowed by a backlog at the state crime lab. Tests to determine which officer fired which bullet took nearly a year.
“I know that the waiting has compounded the grief Mr. Willard’s family feels, and it hasn’t been easy for the officers either,” Roe acknowledged.
Last year, Roe charged Everett police officer Troy Meade with first-degree manslaughter for the June 10 killing of Niles Meservey behind the Chuckwagon Inn on Evergreen Way. The shooting happened as Meade was trying to get the drunken man out of his car.
Meservey’s family also filed a claim against the city. They’re demanding up to $15 million.
Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; firstname.lastname@example.org.