Lt. Chris Lawler,
Per the link here – the Lakewood Police Department’s Press Release found on the city’s website and dated April 22 but as of this date, May 4, not seen in any media publication – “regarding the officer involved shooting (fatal) that occurred on 04-21-15 in the City of Lakewood,” there are indeed “a lot of questions and requests for additional information.”
Readers of this heretofore unseen press release are advised to contact you “for additional information.”
To that end then, some questions and observations.
On June 18, 2013 Patrick O’Meara was shot dead by – once again – two Lakewood Police Officers shortly before midnight in a felony theft arrest attempt. Six days later you, Lt. Chris Lawler, provided for the media a rather substantive account of what happened that night all of six days previous including “a picture of the weapon that O’Meara was armed with” in which you added that “the weapon turned out to be a very realistic looking metal cap gun.”
In contrast, any details on a par of what was provided within six days of June 18, 2013 are being withheld now 13 days, and counting, following the altercation (fatal) between Daniel Covarrubias and Lakewood Police including whether or not Covarrubias was even armed.
In the Tacoma News Tribune this past April 28, you, Police Lt. Chris Lawler, “said that the department will not discuss the April 21 shooting death of 37-year-old Daniel Covarrubias until the involved officers give their statements.”
Now, according to the LPD “Press Release” the public learns that “the timeline of how information will be released” is in fact not dependent upon the officers giving their statements but rather “any details” will not be released “to protect the integrity of the investigation.”
There appeared to be no such concern with the O’Meara incident.
Finally you write that “this process” – investigations by two independent agencies; interviews; collection of evidence; autopsy report; review of all the forgoing; presentation of the facts to the victim’s family and then notification of the public – is “consistent with past practices.”
But the “past practice” as concerned O’Meara does not correlate with the information you are withholding now.
brenden anderson says
Let me first say this. The Lakewood P.D. is the last department I would defend, however anybody that has not realized by now that between June of 2013 and April of 2015 there has been a major shift in the attitude of the public and that any actions that the police take are under intense scrutiny. We want the police and the actions they take to stand up to that scrutiny. Which is why it is important to make sure that investigations have as much as integrity as possible and are not influenced by outside influences. It is not uncommon for police to withhold details during different phases of an investigation, partially to make sure that no witnesses are influenced. Everyone need to take a deep breath, we want the police to personify a certain idea that we have of what they should be, and the majority of them are people who took the job to make a difference in society. Sure some might become a little jaded but they are still making a difference. We as citizens need to realize that and be a little more understanding. And officers need to know we realize their prospective and understand they don’t always make themselves seem the most approachable. This investigation will run its course and questions will be answered, stewing in your anger over actions taken (or possibly) taken by other officers nationwide will not speed it up or help, anger only clouds judgment and I for one want clear answers.
David Anderson says
Brenden writes, “We as citizens need to realize that (that police “are making a difference”) and be a little more understanding.”
Two people are dead Brenden. At the hands of Lakewood Police Department. One on June 18, 2013. Now one on April 21, 2015.
To review, with regards the first fatality, in but six days after O’Meara was killed, the LPD provided – as the second hyperlink in the article shows – a great amount of detail: how it went down; why the officers fired; what the victim was holding – picture provided; what injuries he died from; etc.
What is difficult to understand – to use your word – is why the LPD has chosen this time, in contrast to last time, to keep the details under wraps.
This has nothing to do with anger over national events. Both these fatalities are here in our home town. Two deaths. Two different approaches to dealing with the public’s right to know.
Lt. Chris Lawler’s protestations to the contrary, the public information pipeline valve has been shut off – this time – and is thus in fact not consistent with past LPD practices.
brenden anderson says
believe me I understand the point of view, and I do believe the Lakewood p.d. has donw a lot of things wrong, in fact that is a separate discussion that would take me hours to post about. The main point I am trying to make though is what you just said it is not consistent with their past practices (which have been questionable) and that gives me hope that they are improving. Hopefully under new leadership and by seeing the way the public has reacted to other use of force cases, they have made improvements that will give a clearer more transparent insight in to what happened. I know that if I lived in the city of Lakewood I would certainly push for the formation of a citizens oversight council or committee of some kind. I do have to respectfully disagree with you though I do believe that this was another log on the fire that the public has seen unfolding nationwide. there have been many things that have seemed underhanded and shady done by police that have received a very high profile in the news and it has affected the public. we do have the right to know, and as responsible citizens we have a need to know to make sure we do not have bad apples in the bunch. hopefully this new approach taken by the Lakewood p.d. will give us more insight when all is said and done., and if it does not I will admit I am wrong and be willing to work on a standards of practice issue with people for the department to implement. I just want to make sure for my own self assurance that I am not angry for the wrong reasons. thank you for commenting on my previous statement I hope this clarified my position
David Anderson says
Brenden writes, “Hopefully under new leadership and by seeing the way the public has reacted to other use of force cases, they have made improvements.”
No, just the opposite.
In Lakewood’s 16-page Use of Force Policy (UFP) there is no preamble or mission statement the purpose of which “is to communicate both to the community and to police officers that the preservation of human life is at all times a central tenet of the policy agency.”
There is no declaration instructing officers “that the use of deadly force is an extreme measure to be employed only in the most limited and extraordinary of circumstances.”
There is not – at least not as much as it should be – an emphasis upon the de-escalation step in which “an officer may withdraw to a position that is tactically more secure or allows an officer greater distance in order to consider or deploy a greater variety of force options.”
Had such life-over-lethal-force priority emphases been a part of Lakewood UFP – and training in light of those emphases – it is not unreasonable to contemplate that both O’Meara (June 18, 2013) and Covarrubias (April 21, 2015) would be alive today.
Promises to “properly consider” such recommendations were made by Lakewood City Attorney Heidi Wachter on October 21, 2013. To date there is no substantive documentation that that promise was ever kept.
The most likely responsible party to have undertaken that task? “A citizens oversight council or committee of some kind” which already exists – the Public Safety Advisory Committee which has been studying missing shopping carts for over a year.
As opposed to an exhaustive review and an explanation for those missing statements.
Co-opted Confederate says
The Citizenry has been rendered imbecilic by bad, very bad television programs and motion pictures Concerning Crime, law Police, Prisons, the Conduct of trials and Judicial process. The Media, Specifically the News Media has compounded the Stupidity of Americans by specious reporting instead of facts only reporting. There have been more Cops shot in Lakewood than criminals if I’m not mistaken
David Anderson says
This is not about keeping score. It’s about saving lives.
KRISTY J. KERNEN says
After so many years of corruption, we as a community plugged through, worked hard and incorporated. The city council and others had the foresight to hire Larry Saunders who brought trust, vision, and accountability to LPD. The LPD was visible to the community; if you needed help they were there to help. Many programs like “Weed & Seed” were implemented; you could count on the LPD for the first time! The Community Services Officer was a great idea and has be very beneficial to our community. Once again in their wisdom, the city has chosen to save money for the budget by cutting this program staff. Good call, Lakewood.
I realize we had several problems that arose while Larry Saunders was Chief. Some administrative situations were not handled properly, however, this did not deter from the officers continuing constant vigilance on our community.
After Larry retired and new administration took over many programs have been abandoned altogether. Money was spent on new patrol cars which no longer stand out as “patrol cars”. Even the logo & motto for LPD has changed. The entire group of volunteers working for LPD were no longer supported & encouraged. All the years of volunteer participation saved thousands of dollars for the city of Lakewood. They were systematically castoff. Don’t think that with Bret Farrar’s retirement there will be much of a change in how things are run right now.
If we don’t go out of the area to interview & hire a new chief, things will not get better. It will continue to be business as usual.
If you have Support and Direction and are shown true Appreciation, your work environment is pleasant, everyone has a positive attitude and does a better job. THIS DIRECTION STARTS AT THE TOP, that’s why the RIGHT person for the job is so necessary!
Chris Lawler is a fine police officer and admired by those who know him and work with him. I would certainly hope he & his department are getting the support they need to do the full investigation AND not being held accountable for what is not being disclosed to the public.
I too, along with several others were discussing this very same incident last week as we had heard nothing on the news & seen nothing in the paper or . I hope the “powers that be” at The City and LPD are doing their job & will disclose everything soon.
David Anderson says
Kristy, your last sentence expressing your hope that the results of the investigation of this latest shooting incident will be “disclosed soon,” given the time-lapse in the case of O’Meara (June 18, 2013) to officers exonerated (October 5, 2013) per the link below, likely means “soon” won’t be until nearly four months from now.
Jim Boylan Jr says
It does not surprise me at all that LPD is waiting to release details of this incident. In the other shooting incident, a clear, undeniable, justifiable shooting went down. The guy had a realistic cap gun.
The lumber yard shooting is NOT a clear, undeniable, justifiable shooting because no gun was found. The initial reports were the suspect reached into his pocket and was shot by police. So until the investigation is over, they are not talking. In this day and age, we see daily what “trial by media” is like for cops involved in any shooting. By refusing to release details until the investigation is complete, it will prevent the media from whipping up a mob.
It also could allow the LPD to hide evidence of a bad shooting too. That is just something we will have to accept until they release more info. Which I am sure will be put under microscopic review by the media and family of the slain guy.
I don’t have any problems with that. As long as they release the details, I will be satisfied.
My bigger concern is that current thinking by the majority of citizens is that it is on the police to ensure every encounter with potential criminals is the sole responsibility of the police to ensure no one is hurt or shot. BULL!
What happened to accepting responsibility for one’s actions? What happened to following the commands given by a law enforcement officer? How hard is it to not break the law?
We see all the time people who break the law are being killed. Anyone stupid enough to break the law should know by now that they may die from their actions. We see time after time people shot by cops for running then fighting with the cops.
How hard is it to respond politely to a cops questions? How hard is it to just shut your mouth and accept that you are being detained after being polite fails? Would you rather waste several hours alive at the police station sorting things out or waste the rest of your life being gunned down because you got stupid and fought with the cops?
The second big concern of mine is the failure of our legislators to fix the mental health system here in WA. After ten years, almost, working at Western State Hospital in Lakewood, I saw on a regular basis mentally ill people just given some cash and a bus or taxi ride after they could not be held for treatment any longer. Most of those people end up not far from WSH, in Lakewood. How many violent or deadly encounters could be avoided if the mental health system was fixed?
That is what the media should be worried about. Not crucifying the police any time they use lethal force.
David Anderson says
As legitimate as are your questions: “What happened to accepting responsibility for one’s actions? What happened to following the commands given by a law enforcement officer? How hard is it to not break the law?” so too just as legitimate are these:
Why, in Lakewood’s 16-page Use of Force Policy (UFP) is there no preamble or mission statement the purpose of which “is to communicate both to the community and to police officers that the preservation of human life is at all times a central tenet of the policy agency”?
Why in that UFP is there no declaration instructing officers “that the use of deadly force is an extreme measure to be employed only in the most limited and extraordinary of circumstances”?
Why is there not – at least not as much as it should be – an emphasis upon the de-escalation step in which “an officer may withdraw to a position that is tactically more secure or allows an officer greater distance in order to consider or deploy a greater variety of force options”?
Why was Lakewood City Attorney Heidi Wachter’s promise of October 21, 2013 not kept – the one that promised “to properly consider” these recommendations?
Why has the Lakewood Police Department’s Advisory Committee been studying missing shopping carts for now over a year – as directed by the Lakewood City Council – instead of providing substantive documentation that Wachter’s promise had been fulfilled?
And why – had such life-over-the-use-of-deadly-force value statements been incorporated – would it not then be reasonable to contemplate that both O’Meara (June 18, 2013) and Covarrubias (April 21, 2015) would be alive today – “violent or deadly encounters (that) could be avoided if the mental health system” (your contention) and Lakewood’s UFP (mine) “was fixed?”
Jim Boylan Jr says
Why would words on paper do anything to prevent a cop from using lethal force? Mission statements, Use of Force Policy, etc are nothing but feel good politics.
Cops are trained to use the amount of force needed to control a situation. They are trained to apprehend a criminal. They are not trained to withdraw and observe. That is what security officers are trained to do.
In all of the deadly incidents in Lakewood, a weapon or threat of a weapon was present. Even this last case based off initial reports that the guy reached into a pocket.
You have a guy standing on the roof of a building, not responding to people or police to come down. During the attempt to talk him down, supposedly he reached for what the cops thought might be a weapon.
At that point the situation becomes shoot or die. There is no waiting to see if he actually pulls a gun. He obviously was not in the right frame of mind just by his actions. Cops can’t second guess.
If they do and let’s say the guy pulled a gun, how many people could be shot before a cop can draw and fire or fire from a guard position? Too many, even if only one. Then the cop is crucified for letting an innocent be hurt or killed.
The biggest travesty in the last incident was not a cop killing a possibly unarmed person. The travesty was why was an obviously mentally ill person was allowed to reach the point where he did, AND PAID FOR IT WITH HIS LIFE.
As I said earlier, no amount of words on paper will make any difference in cops shooting criminals. You have to accept that a person who was shot was breaking a law, however minor it may be. Does not matter one bit if a cop gets 200 hours of descalating mentally ill people training because the next guy who gets shot might try punching a cop so they don’t go to jail over stealing a loaf of bread.
Don’t break the law, don’t get shot by cops.
Don’t let mentally ill people go untreated and they won’t get shot while manic, psychotic or depressed.
David Anderson says
Boylan writes, “Why would words on paper do anything to prevent a cop from using lethal force?”
Since you asked:
Same reason words on paper – a marriage certificate for example – and the stated vows that go along with it are supposedly a reminder in a crisis of your commitment.
Same reason words on paper – a last will and testament for another example – are an ironclad responsibility by a responsible party to ensure the deceased had (a) testamentary capacity, and thus ensures (b) his wishes are followed.
The point is Boylan, words are supposed to mean something.
That’s why In contrasting Use of Force Policies (UFP’s) from police departments in Los Angeles, Denver, Louisville, Portland (Oregon), Philadelphia, and Washington DC, with that of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) , the ACLU found – in keeping with life-over-force preambles – that the LVMPD’s did not adequately emphasize, among other ‘words’ the de-escalation step in which “an officer may withdraw to a position that is tactically more secure or allows an officer greater distance in order to consider or deploy a greater variety of force options.”
And that is why the Department of Justice investigation concluded, with regards Seattle’s UFP, that it too should be revamped to reflect similar changes – and more – that outline for officers when force is appropriate, how much is necessary, and when it is not.
Among the new requirements that were adopted for Seattle police officers: “If circumstances allow, attempt to de-escalate tense situations to reduce the need for force. When using force is unavoidable, the policy cautions officers to use only the force necessary to make the arrest, and says that their conduct before force was used may be considered by the department in determining whether force was appropriate.
“The findings of the Justice Department’s investigation echoed concerns that had been raised for years by Police Department auditors, a review board, blue-ribbon commissions and plaintiff’s attorneys, among others, who have complained that officers escalate to force too quickly.”
And it is for that very reason – using your words – that “cops are not trained to withdraw and observe” that people – mentally ill and otherwise, armed or not – get shot.
As to your claim that “in all of the deadly incidents in Lakewood, a weapon or threat of a weapon was present (or) the guy reached into a pocket” – that in fact does not therefore translate into a fatality.
Nineteen days (July 7, 2013) after 28-year-old Patrick O’Meara was shot dead by Lakewood Police just 30 minutes before midnight in a felony theft arrest attempt at a residence in the Tillicum community (June 18, 2013), a SWAT team surrounded a Lakewood home and “for five hours, police pleaded with a guy named Robert to come out with his hands up.”
Turns out Robert wasn’t home.
The very next day, July 8, 2013, in fact just 30 minutes after midnight, Lakewood Police officers responded to a home and upon arrival were shot at, police “reported hearing sounds of bullets whizzing past them and hitting bushes.”
Again a SWAT team was called.
Although the 29-year-old man “stepped outside with a gun in his hand,” police did not return fire even though they had been fired upon. “Police said he threw it into the grass when he emerged.
“He then allegedly refused to obey officers’ commands and was eventually shot with bean bag rounds.”
Daniel Covarrubias was not so lucky. He’d “appeared to be reaching for something in his pocket.”
If it can be done, since it has been done – apprehension without the use of lethal force – why wasn’t it in Covarrubias’ case? Or, for that matter O’Meara’s?
So much for your argument that “a person who was shot was breaking a law, however minor it may be.”
I would beg to majorly differ with you with regards what you view as the biggest travesty.
But I’m not begging. Because words matter: you’re wrong.
The biggest travesty in the last incident was indeed that a cop killed a possibly unarmed person. Because it didn’t have to happen. For the reasons outlined above.
Jim Boylan Jr says
53% of marriages end in divorce.
60%+ of restraining orders are violated.
Wills are contested constantly. California automatically orders reviews of any estate over $150k, will or not.
Living wills are ignored by doctors if a family members says to ignore it.
12,000,000+ arrests are made each year because WRITTEN words of laws are broken.
We see just how effective words are, huh? Yes, words are SUPPOSE to mean something. Unfortunately in this day and age, they do not. Words mean very little. Words will not stop someone if they are going to do an act. It just doesn’t happen. No amount of words will stop a bullet, fist, knife, bat, car, or any other item used to hurt another person.
Word are nothing more than feel good politics.
Do you know what the stats are for the cities you mentioned and how many people were killed by police in them? Look it up. Every city except Philadelphia has seen an INCREASE in cop involved shootings. So much for words. Philadelphia has had a drop in 2014 but I haven’t seen 2015 numbers yet. Otherwise they were exactly the same as all other cities. A fairly steady, mildly up and down wave graph of ahootings.
I frequently wear a t-shirt that says “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say will be misquoted and used against you.” You are a prime example of that.
I said “In all of the deadly incidents in Lakewood, a weapon or threat of a weapon was present.” You obviously did not miss the word DEADLY but you cited some cases where cops shot but did not kill a suspect. I am not talking about that type of officer involved shooting. I am talking about DEADLY. And the fact that in all recent cases I found, a weapon or threat of weapon was present.
Every critical situation is different. You will never encounter the exact same situation involving a life and death use of force decision. No amount of training will prepare you for every type of situation either. That is where your judgement comes in.
You also missed the entire point of my statement about accepting the fact that every person who is shot by police is breaking a law. That is fact. Because in order for them to be shot they have to being doing one or more of the following. Ignore the commands of officers, which is against the law, fleeing from officers, against the law, fighting the police, against the law, or attempting to harm themselves or others, also against the law. This is in addition to whatever brought the cops out in the first place.
So I say again, DON’T BREAK THE LAW, DON’T GET SHOT BY POLICE.
Every cop is trained in descalating people. It is part of every basic police training academy in the country. The average number of hours spent on specific descalating techniques is over 80, two weeks of an average 18 week academy.
The SPD policy you quote “If circumstances allow, attempt to descalate tense situations to reduce the need for force”, even leaves room for personal judgment. Because every situation is different. The Mission of the Lakewood Police Department is to: Protect life and property. Reduce Crime. Build better communities. Respect and protect individual rights. Enforce the laws of Lakewood and the state of Washington.
PROTECT LIFE AND PROPERTY. RESPECT AND PROTECT INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS. What more needs to be said there?
Putting more words in a use of force policy (UoF) does what? Cops are already trained to attempt descalation in the academy, but to use the amount of force needed to control the situation. Not one agency can show changing the wording of their UoF does anything to lower police involved shootings when compared to previous years. Not one. Even agencies that had a drop, see it does not last or even is related to changing of words.
All it does is appease groups like the ACLU. Do you know why? Lawsuits. That is the only reason. Because the ACLU can say, “Look, they say this, but still shot 20 people last year.” That’s it, the only reason that so many groups want the UoF to say those WORDS.
What does matter is prevention and training. Cops are only trained partially in dealing with mentally ill persons. I have received over 500 hours of training in handling mentally ill persons, probably closer to 1000. In addition to WSH, I worked at other hospitals and facilities where mentally ill are treated, over 15 years total. Yet even with that, I have seen that training fail more often than succeed. Just look up the number of staff injured at Western State Hospital to see how effective words and training is handling mentally ill offenders. It is because so many mentally ill here are allowed to refuse medication. There are not enough beds in treatment facilities so people are released unsupervised. These people even if they were taking meds almost are guaranteed to end up back in a facility for treatment or in jail because they stop taking their medication.
Do you know the percentage of mentally ill people killed by cops out of the total number of cop involved fatalities? 58%. Over HALF of all cop involved fatal shootings are of mentally ill. Some studies have it as high as 68% or as low as 49%. Even at 49%, we are talking HALF.
Proper treatment of mentally ill people would likely cut police involved shootings by a huge number. But we MUST have facilities and beds in order to treat the mentally ill.
We now know the reported facts from LPD on the latest shooting. The guy pulled an object from his pocket and THREE TIMES pointed it at cops. After refusing to come down, put down the object and obey other commands. We also know the suspect was on a three day high from apparent meth use. He was a danger to himself by trespassing, climbing and jumping around on elevated lumber piles, and multiple other laws broken.
So how would words have saved this guy from being shot? He already ignored the words of
Don’t do illegal drugs.
Follow the commands of police.
And who knows how many others. That doesn’t include his suspected mental health history either.
So I say one last time. Don’t break the law, don’t get shot. I also say if people would actually DO what so many say “HANDS UP!” the cops “DON’T SHOOT!”
Maybe these people breaking laws should follow those words?
David Anderson says
A non-update: “Police still mum . . . .”
brenden anderson says
I am sorry to say that I believe you have already reached your conclusion. I admit that I am biased, I am predisposed in a negative way regarding the Lakewood police. you seem to have all the answers, I am wondering what all do you think goes in to one of these investigations? what would you different? do you think we should rely on the officers and detectives that were on the scene to calculate the science that either proves or disproves statements that officers have given? and if you think that maybe since those calculations include a list of variable a mile long those calculations should be done by experts? and if we rely on these experts do you think this is the only case they are working on? it has been 13 days the investigation in ferguson, ,MO was 18 weeks long, the case in NYC 16 weeks it has been 13 days now what would you do to expedite the process
David Anderson says
Was Covarrubias armed Brenden when he was shot fatally by Lakewood Police? The answer, now in the 16th day following what happened April 21, is ‘we don’t know.’ Why don’t we know? When O’Meara suffered the same fate June 18, 2013 in our community of Tillicum, we knew within six days – thanks to a follow-up report from the same Lt. Chris Lawler – that O’Meara was waving what turned out to be a toy gun. According to that same report in the media, six days after O’Meara was killed:
“Officers approached the residence and knocked on the door, announcing that they were the ‘Police’. Other officers were standing at the side of the residence at a window and spotted O’Meara inside, armed with a firearm. Despite repeated attempts to order O’Meara to drop the weapon, he refused and forced officers to fire their weapons.”
Do we have anything that approximates such detail as it concerns now this latest fatality?
So how do you justify, reconcile, explain the statement below from the May 6 issue of the Tacoma News Tribune – as it pertains to Covarrubias – with the quite expedited report by the police as it concerned O’Meara?
“… we have investigative procedures that we need to go through before releasing any details,” Interim Police Chief Mike Zaro said in an email Wednesday to The News Tribune.
David Anderson says
As National Police Week begins, the Associated Press is announcing that “Police in Lakewood, Washington, are planning Monday to release details into last month’s police shooting of a 37-year-old man at a lumberyard in the Tacoma suburb.
“Police have said they found Daniel Covarrubias atop a stack of lumber at Pinnacle Lumber and Plywood on April 21. They said two officers opened fire when the man reached into his pocket.”
Covarrubias, father of seven, was killed.