Lynnwood officer’s fatal shooting of suspect ruled justified

A man had been harassing an ex-girlfriend, and when police went to investigate, he rushed them.

Chassady LeClair (Washington state Department of Corrections. )

Chassady LeClair (Washington state Department of Corrections. )

EVERETT — A Lynnwood police officer acted lawfully when he fatally shot an ex-con who rushed toward him outside an Everett home nearly a year ago, Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Roe has determined.

Roe late last month wrote detectives who investigated the Dec. 17 death of Chassady LeClair to inform them of his decision. The Daily Herald obtained police reports about the shooting and the prosecutor’s ruling under state public records laws.

LeClair, 44, was a convicted sex offender who in the days prior to the shooting had been harassing an ex-girlfriend.

She went to Lynnwood police. They reviewed several text messages that threatened the woman, including one that read “U will suffer before I let u die.” LeClair also warned he would kill police if they attempted to intervene, a threat he made while officers were listening to him on a speaker phone.

Police obtained a judge’s permission to trace the location of LeClair’s cellphone, and that led them to a home along Friday Avenue in Everett. LeClair was wanted on a state Department of Corrections warrant and the officers had developed probable cause to arrest him for felony harassment, documents show.

An investigation by the Snohomish County Multiple Agency Response Team found the gunfire broke out when officers attempted to take LeClair into custody when they came upon him outside the house.

Tests later showed LeClair was intoxicated. Police and civilian witnesses described how the man ignored repeated orders to get on the ground and surrender and instead threw objects at the officers. Those turned out to be heavy, metal balls.

LeClair reportedly was running at and reaching for Lynnwood officer Sam Zacharia when the officer fired four times, striking the man in the chest with three bullets. The shots were fired at close range, anywhere from two feet to 10 feet away, the investigation found.

Zacharia told investigators that he was yelling “Stop!” and LeClair was reaching toward his waistband, possibly for a weapon, as he closed the distance.

A civilian witness described how the officer was stepping back and shouting at LeClair to surrender. The witness said the gunfire erupted when the man was only about two feet away, and reaching toward the officer’s weapon, Roe noted.

The prosecutor spoke with LeClair’s mother, who lives in another state, prior to announcing his decision.

“It is apparent many people cared for Mr. LeClair, and his death is extremely unfortunate,” Roe wrote. “Nonetheless, the officer who shot him reasonably felt he was a second away from losing his own life if disarmed by someone who had promised to kill police. I don’t think he had any option but to fire when he did.”

LeClair was wearing deer horns on his head at the time of the shooting. Officers learned the man was Native American, and the horns were an important symbol in his tribe, records say.

SMART is made up of seasoned detectives from around the county. It is tasked with investigating cases where police have used fatal force.

The lead investigators in this case were sheriff’s detective Dave Bilyeu and Marysville police detective Craig Bartl.

Scott North: 425-339-3431; north@herald Twitter: @snorthnews.

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