Fatal shooting by deputy called justified

BOTHELL — A Snohomish County sheriff’s deputy was legally justified last summer when he fatally shot a mentally ill man who charged at him with an upraised cane, the county’s top prosecutor has concluded.

The July 10, 2011 death of Brandon R. Brown, 27, was tragic, but the deputy was acting within the law when he fired a single shot in defense, Prosecuting Attorney Mark Roe said in a letter to detectives Friday.

“Brandon Brown was not a bad person; he was a mentally ill one,” Roe wrote. “Whether he was mentally ill or bad wasn’t the most acute issue however, as he went towards the sheriff’s deputy with what was essentially a club that could clobber him.”

Deputies were at Brown’s home in the 2000 block of 187th Place SE after family members reported that he was angry and had just threatened to hit his sister with the cane, according to court papers.

Brown for years had been diagnosed as living with schizophrenia. He had a history of confrontations with police, including some that required response by the sheriff’s office SWAT team, records show.

Deputies sent to the home that day were identified in police reports as Christopher Simpson and Chris Leyda. They were legally obligated to arrest Brown because of state domestic violence laws, Roe wrote.

The pair initially tried to talk Brown into surrendering and when that didn’t work, attempted to subdue him with electric shocks from their Tasers. That proved ineffective and Brown ran into an upstairs bedroom, shutting the door.

The death was investigated by major-case detectives from the Washington State Patrol and the Mukilteo Police Department. Both are members of the Snohomish County Multiple Agency Response Team.

Simpson earlier was named in documents as the deputy who fired the fatal shot. Investigators learned that he had initially had his handgun unholstered while Leyda prepared to use the Taser.

“It is clear he never wanted or intended to shoot Mr. Brown, evidenced by the fact that he holstered his gun before going upstairs, and didn’t draw it again until he was being advanced on by a man with a weapon, and felt threatened,” Roe wrote. “I don’t believe the deputy committed a crime because I think the facts show he was acting reasonably, and was justified when he decided to shoot.”

A search warrant initially described the deputy backing away from Brown and tripping over something on the floor about the time the fatal shot was fired. In the letter, Roe described the deputy firing before he fell.

Roe said Brown’s family was disappointed when he explained his decision not to charge the deputy in connection with the shooting, but he later got a call thanking him for meeting with them to explain the decision.

Simpson initially was placed on administrative leave, following standard procedure for police shootings. The deputy, in his mid 40s, has worked with the sheriff’s office for more than two decades.

Scott North: 425-339-3431, north@heraldnet.com.

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