Verlot shooting by deputy is under review

  • Thu Jan 21st, 2010 10:41pm
  • News

By Jackson Holtz Herald Writer

VERLOT — When Snohomish County sheriff’s deputies arrived at Daniel Wasilchen’s home last spring they ordered him to drop his handgun.

Instead, the 44-year-old Verlot man reportedly pointed his gun at the deputies, and shouted for them to drop their weapons.

The confrontation ended when deputy Greg Rasar fired three shots at Wasilchen, 44, killing him, according to a search warrant affidavit that was written on May 29, the day of the shooting

The nine-month investigation into the shooting was completed Wednesday and forwarded to Snohomish County prosecutor Mark Roe. He now will review the evidence gathered to determine if the shooting was legally justified.

So far, the search warrant is the only law enforcement document to find its way into the public record offering details about what reportedly happened the day Wasilchen died. Reports from the detective team’s nine-month investigation into the shooting aren’t yet available under the state’s public disclosure laws.

Exactly what led to the fatal confrontation with police is likely to be the subject of litigation.

Wasilchen’s family in November filed a $5 million claim for damages against Snohomish County and H.F. “Sonny” Gohrman, the county’s noxious weed abatement coordinator.

The man’s family says the county and Gohrman — the person they contend instigated the confrontation — need to be held responsible.

Prior to the shooting, Gohrman and David McFarlane stopped to talk with Wasilchen at his home along the Mountain Loop Highway. Wasilchen was visiting with relatives and told the weed control officials to leave his property.

An argument followed, said Ray Dearie, an attorney representing Wasilchen’s family.

A witnesses said Gohrman was enraged and yelling at Wasilchen, who repeatedly told the weed officials to leave.

“That’s when he went off on me and got aggressive and threatened to get a gun,” Gohrman wrote in an e-mail that The Herald obtained earlier under public disclosure laws.

Gohrman said Wasilchen pushed him. “If I had stood my ground, there would have been a fight,” he wrote.

The search warrant affidavit said Wasilchen shoved one of the county employees and threatened to shoot them.

The weed officials left and called sheriff’s deputies to report the incident.

Gohrman returned to Wasilchen’s home followed by Rasar, who was working that day with reserve deputy Tim King.

Wasilchen reportedly went into his home when the deputies showed up and came out pointing a firearm at Rasar and King and the weed control officials.

“Verbal commands to drop the weapon were apparently met with counter verbal commands from the armed male subject,” Snohomish County sheriff’s detective Scott Wells wrote in an affidavit for the May 29 search warrant.

Wells is part of the Snohomish County Multiple Agency Response Team, a special team of detectives, that investigates officer-involved deaths.

The search warrant affidavit said detectives believed there was evidence that Wasilchen committed second-degree assault by pointing his loaded handgun at the deputies and the county officials.

After the gunfire, Wasilchen reportedly continued to reach for the weapon, police said. King was able to secure the gun and removed a round from the chamber.

Rasar and King were placed on administrative leave after the shooting. Both deputies later were cleared by commanders to return to patrol.

Dearie, the Wasilchen family’s attorney, said he hasn’t seen the investigation report sent Wednesday to prosecutors. He said several questions remain.

Wasilchen didn’t do anything wrong when he asked government officials to leave his property, Dearie said.

“Why did they provoke him?” the lawyer asked.

Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3437, jholtz@heraldnet.com.