Pasco officer cleared in Sept. 14 shooting

A Pasco police officer was justified in shooting a possible burglary suspect who fired at him lastmonth, Franklin County Prosecutor Shawn Sant said Tuesday.

Officer Chad Pettijohn, who had been on paid administrative leave since the Sept. 14 incident, was cleared of any wrongdoing and returned to work Monday.

Pettijohn shot six times at Ezequiel Chavez, 19, of Pasco, after Chavez started running from him and fired the first shot, officials said.

"Normally, an officer is trained ... to shoot until the threat is stopped or neutralized," said Richland police Capt. Al Wehner. "All indications are that Officer Pettijohn fired until the gun was dropped."

Wehner led the investigation by the multi-agency Special Investigations Unit, which was formed in January and activated for the second time this year.

Chavez reportedly fired a .380-caliber, semi-automatic pistol at Pettijohn after running into the yard of a home in the 900 block of North 15th Avenue, court documents said.

The gun, with one round chambered, was recovered in the front yard near where Chavez fell, documents said. A fired .380-caliber shell casing was found nearby.

Investigators also found where the bullet ricocheted off a vehicle in the area where Pettijohn was standing, documents said.

Chavez was hit twice by Pettijohn -- once in the left thigh and once to his right side slightly above his hip to the rear, Wehner said.

Three of the officer's rounds hit the side of the house. There were people inside the home at the time, but no one was hurt, Wehner said.

The sixth round fired by Pettijohn was not found.

Pettijohn is a six-year veteran of the police department. He was not hurt.

An administrative review to determine if Pasco Police Department policies were followed also was completed, said Pasco police Capt. Jim Raymond.

The incident began when officers were called to the 1100 block of Park Street after someone reported several individuals were acting suspiciously and possibly burglarizing a home.

Pasco officers later determined there was no break-in.

Chavez is charged with first-degree assault with a gun for allegedly shooting at Pettijohn.

He pleaded innocent Tuesday in Franklin County Superior Court, and his trial tentatively is set for Nov. 30.

He remains in the Franklin County jail where he was taken Sept. 19 after being treated at Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland. Bail is set at $1 million.

If convicted, Chavez faces a sentencing range of 14 to 17 years in prison.

He also had a warrant out for his arrest at the time of the shooting. He was wanted for escape from community custody on a drug-related conviction.

He received his first felony conviction in July after pleading guilty in Franklin County Superior Court to possessing methamphetamine.

He received a one-month jail sentence and was ordered to complete one year of probation, known as community custody.