A Pasco policeman killed a Spokane County man after he reportedly ran from a stolen car and pulled a gun.
Matthew L. Stoddard, 25, was shot less than six months after serving his third term in a Washington prison.
The shooting early Wednesday near Sixth and Lewis streets was the fourth fatal shooting by a Tri-City police officer in three months.
Pasco police stopped a stolen car with two men inside about 3 a.m., said Pasco Capt. Jim Raymond. Stoddard ran from the driver’s seat while a passenger stayed and was arrested, he said.
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Officers searched the downtown area and initially could not find Stoddard. Then, as Officer Tony Haworth was walking back to his police car, he spotted Stoddard in the parking lot of a mechanic’s shop.
Haworth said Stoddard emerged with a gun and he ordered the suspect to drop it. Raymond said when Stoddard didn’t follow his orders, Haworth shot him.
“We believe (Haworth) was defending himself,” Raymond said. “There is nothing to indicate otherwise.”
The Airway Heights man died at Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland.
A Bellevue forensic pathologist is scheduled to perform an autopsy on Sept. 26.
The Tri-City Special Investigations Unit is investigating the shooting. The unit includes police officers from several Tri-City law enforcement agencies. Pasco officers and officials will not be part of the unit or involved in the investigation, Raymond said. Stoddard was released just six days earlier from the Franklin County jail on suspicion of possessing a stolen car, trespassing and a Department of Corrections warrant.
He had a lengthy criminal history that led to three prison stints in Washington, confirmed Norah West with the DOC. Stoddard was to be under state supervision until 2016.
The day before Stoddard was shot, the state issued a warrant for his arrest after he didn’t show up for a meeting with his parole officer, West said.
His previous convictions dating to 2007 were for drug possession, possession of a gun, residential burglary, theft, possession of stolen property and attempting to elude police.
He served prison terms from April 2007 to May 2008, August 2008 to July 2012, and June 2013 to March 2014, West said. DOC officials previously had issued eight warrants for Stoddard’s arrest when he failed to check in with his parole officer.
Stoddard’s death continues a recent series of deadly shootings involving police officers in the Tri-Cities. He is the third since July to be killed in Pasco.
Police officials in the Tri-Cities say shootings involving police officers continue to happen nationwide and local officers have been forced to protect themselves against criminals threatening their lives.
Pasco Chief Bob Metzger told the Herald he feels his department has the trust of the community. He asked citizens to be patient as the ongoing SIU investigations are conducted, and he pledged that the process would be transparent.
“We want to make sure we are thorough and bring in the right people to do the investigation and look under every rock,” he said. “We want to make sure we are thorough so we don’t lose the support of the public. That’s important.”
Kennewick Chief Ken Hohenberg agreed that transparency is critical and that the community has faith in local departments to protect people.
He said officers diffuse potentially deadly situations on a daily basis and sometimes force is necessary to protect citizens and officers.
“Officers have fractions of seconds to make a decision when confronted with an imminent threat,” he said. “That is a very, very tough situation to be in. When someone points a weapon at you, you have nanoseconds to decide if that is a real weapon.”
Earlier this month, three officers were cleared in the shooting death of Aaron T. Wright, 32, of Kennewick, on June 27 after he led police on a chase in a stolen car and pointed a pellet gun at officers.
Rick R. Howard, 49, was shot July 9 by a Tri-City Regional Swat Team member during a standoff in Pasco. Authorities say Howard fired more than 60 rounds at officers, including some from a high-powered rifle.
Less than three weeks later, Brad D. Jensen, 34, was shot several times by two Pasco police officers when he allegedly refused to drop a knife.
Results of the SIU investigations into Howard and Jensen’s deaths have yet to be released.
-- Tyler Richardson: 509-582-1556; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @Ty_richardson