Centralia police say Officer Phil Weismiller caught up to the subject who was attempting to scale a fence on Elm Street.
Updated at 9:22 p.m.
By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter
CENTRALIA – A Centralia police officer shot and killed a man last night in a residential neighborhood after a confrontation that began when another officer attempted to contact the individual spotted behind a closed business.
It happened around 2:20 a.m. in an area just east of the Interstate 5 interchange at Mellen Street.
Police say the subject had displayed a knife and said he had a gun during the first encounter and had a knife in his hand during a subsequent encounter about a block away.
The deceased is 48 years old carrying an identification card, from Arizona, according to the Centralia Police Department. His name was not released.
Officers remained on the scene this morning conducting an investigation, along with the Washington State Patrol, at the 1200 block of Elm Street where it ended, according to a police spokesperson.
Police spokesperson Officer Patricia Finch said as she understood, an officer was on routine patrol and observed a suspicious person behind Fiddler’s Coffee on Mellen Street. Officers keep an eye out for potential burglars, she said. Officer Tracy Murphy tried to contact the male, who ignored Murphy and walked away, according to Finch.
Murphy in his patrol car followed him across the street to near the shuttered former King Solomon’s Restaurant building, according to police. Police say that’s where the male showed Murphy the knife, said he had a firearm, and then refused to drop the knife.
According to Finch, the male ran and was pursued on foot by the arriving second officer.
Officer Phil Weismiller met up with the male 100 to 200 yards away.
“(T)he male stopped and confronted the officer, holding a knife in his hand,” police stated in a morning news release. “At one point during the confrontation, the male was shot by the officer.”
The whole event happened within a matter of moments, Finch said.
Medics responded but the man was dead at the scene.
The commotion was frightening for residents of the short dead-end street.
Twenty-year-old Kassie Kohler said she and her mother were asleep on couches in their living room when her teenage brother alerted them he heard gunshots outside his window, she said.
“He Army-crawled from his room to the living room yelling, get down, get down,” she said.
When they finally got the nerve to look out a window, Kohler said she saw a patrol car parked on the lawn between their house and the neighbor to the west, headlights pointed toward the back corner of where the house met with a back fence.
It wasn’t 10 minutes, she said, before there were a dozen police and aid vehicles lining the street.
Police Chief Bob Berg offered more details as the day wore on.
Weismiller arrived in his patrol vehicle to assist Murphy and exited at the northeast corner of the restaurant property where access to Elm Street is barricaded. Murphy drove around to the intersection of Elm and Marsh Avenue to block that route, according to Berg.
Weismiller chased the subject and caught up with him in between two houses where he was unsuccessfully attempting to scale a fence, Berg wrote.
“At that point the subject, still armed with a knife, confronted Officer Weismiller and after refusing commands to drop the knife, the subject was shot,” Berg wrote.
The chief didn’t note how many rounds were fired. No details describing the knife were released.
Kohler said she counted 13 yellow numbered markers on the ground as law enforcement officers examined the scene.
Finch said she didn’t know if the deceased was just passing through town or had relocated here. Police would not reveal his identity until after his family is notified, she said.
Weismiller has been placed on administrative leave as is standard procedure, according to police. Weismiller, 34, has been with the department for a year and a half, coming from the Kelso Police Department where he worked about four years.
He is a former captain in the U.S. Army who has served tours in the Middle East, police said.
Murphy is a 17-year veteran of the department.
The Centralia Police Department requested assistance from what is known as the Region Three Critical Incident Investigation Team, a group of officers from surrounding agencies who look into such incidents.
A records check shows the deceased has arrest and conviction data in Washington, Oregon, Arizona and New Mexico, according to police.
Lewis County Coroner Warren McLeod said the man’s next-of-kin have been notified, but he won’t release the name until his identity is confirmed tomorrow through finger prints.
The team of detectives from the Thurston, Lewis, Pacific, Grays Harbor, and Mason County sheriffs’ offices are expected to complete their work within the next three weeks, according to Berg.
Their findings will go to the Lewis County prosecutor to review the actions of Weismiller for a decision regarding any criminal charges. Once that side of the matter is resolved, an internal use of force review board will convene in accordance with Centralia Police Department policy, according to the chief.
A team consisting of detectives from the Thurston, Lewis, Pacific, Grays Harbor, and Mason County Sheriffs’ Offices conducting the investigation into the officer-involved shooting on Elm Street is expected to complete its work within the next three weeks.
The other side of the fence at the house on Elm Street.