A Benton County sheriff’s deputy and Richland police officer were justified last May in killing a 36-year-old man during a hostage situation, according to Benton County’s prosecutor, though one of the hostages told the deputy during the standoff the gun was fake.
Benton County Prosecutor Andy Miller provided his review of the special investigation of the shooting of Roark Cook to the Herald on Wednesday afternoon. He said Deputy Logan Brown and Officer Ryan Miller acted appropriately in the May 4 shooting of Cook.
The law enforcement officers, who were initially placed on paid administrative leave following the shooting and pending the special investigation, returned to regular duty weeks ago, officials said.
All shots fired during the standoff came from law enforcement, despite initial reports that Cook fired at officers.
A spray-painted replica gun was the only thing resembling a firearm found near Cook’s body after the shooting. No other guns were found in the Kennewick apartment where the standoff happened.
But Cook’s assertion he had a gun and would shoot when officers first tried to enter the apartment, the resemblance of the replica gun to the real thing and the threatening way he brandished it when one of the hostages tried to climb down a balcony to escape, gave Brown and Ryan Miller good reason to use their own weapons, the prosecutor said.
“I don’t think the officers had a choice,” Andy Miller told the Herald.
Police went to Cook’s apartment at 3320 W. Ninth Ave. early on May 4 after his mother called 911 concerned he may hurt himself and said he had access to guns. Cook had mental health issues and a history of violence against women in the Tri-Cities, including allegations of abuse by a woman who also lived at the apartment, said the review.
Richland police, sheriff’s deputies and the Tri-City SWAT team were called in as backup after Cook said he had a gun and barricaded the apartment door.
Shortly after, a woman handed a 7-year-old boy from the apartment balcony to officers waiting below before Cook pulled her back inside. It was then Brown heard the woman say Cook had a toy gun.
When the woman got back onto the balcony minutes later and began climbing down, Cook came out and pointed what appeared to be a gun at her and the officers helping her down. That’s when Brown and Ryan Miller fired several shots at him before retreating to the apartment. A second woman then came out and climbed down the balcony to officers.
When Cook refused to surrender, the Richland Bomb Squad blew open the door and used a robot to check on him. He died a short while later.
A coroner’s report found Cook died as a result of several gunshot wounds to his torso, and none appeared to be self-inflicted. Toxicology results were not immediately available Wednesday.
The investigation found Ryan Miller was not aware of the woman’s statement that Cook didn’t have a working gun, but also that he didn’t clearly see Cook brandish the replica weapon. The officer fired his weapon after seeing Cook force one woman back into the apartment and the sound of Brown’s gunshots.
While Brown heard a hostage say Cook’s weapon was fake, like Ryan Miller he’d heard about the initial call to 911 and Cook’s statement that he had a gun. The appearance of the weapon when Cook pointed it at the woman and officers gave him good reason to think it was a threat, Andy Miller wrote.
“It looked like a real gun,” Andy Miller told the Herald.
“It’s a bad situation,” he said, adding he feels terrible for Cook’s family. “(Cook) was in a difficult time in his life, he may have been a good man, but he made some bad decisions that day.”