Five holes mark the front door of Anita Mecca's mobile home in Napavine. Three pierced through to the inside.
By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter
NAPAVINE – Thirty-nine-year-old Anita Mecca had a bad feeling after she told her new boyfriend to move out of her Napavine home.
He didn’t take it well, she said, remaining outside in her driveway for several hours with dead battery in his van waiting for someone to help him jump start it.
It was Saturday June 18, and at one point later that day, Steven V. Petersen showed all his empty pill bottles to a friend, and another friend described Petersen with some kind of fabric wrapped around his wrists, and saw blood on his arms, Mecca said.
West Vine Street and Second Avenue, Napavine
He tried to do a guilt trip on me, she said, for ending the relationship that was only a couple weeks long.
Mecca, who was raised in Napavine, said she had a friend stay over for two nights, because she was worried what Petersen might do.
“I had a feeling something was going to happen, I put my baseball bat by the door,” Mecca said Thursday as she stood on the porch of her mobile home. “And sure as sh** … I didn’t know he was going to freak out like that.”
“Like that”, according to authorities, is the 33-year-old Napavine man less than two days later returned to her home in the night, used a knife to repeatedly puncture a truck’s steel hood and did the same to her front door, and then less than 20 minutes later charged a sheriff’s deputy who had stopped him on the street.
Petersen died of a gunshot wound to the head around 2 a.m. on June 20. Lewis County Sheriff’s Deputy Matt McKnight reportedly fired four times, hitting Petersen with three bullets.
Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer this week announced he concluded McKnight’s use of deadly force was justified. The 27-year-old deputy remains on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an internal review.
Petersen, according to Mecca, lived in Napavine with his wife and young son.
After his wife died unexpectedly last month, Mecca and Petersen began dating and then he moved into her mobile home.
His son had been taken into foster care, she said. His next closest family member is his father, who lives in Missouri, authorities have said.
He didn’t work; he had seizures and took medication for them, Mecca said.
It’s disturbing, she said Thursday.
The holes through the front door of her home, presumably with a large knife, leave her certain Petersen was going to hurt her when he showed up that night.
Mecca said she took his display of empty pill bottle to mean Petersen had ingested all his, of what she recalled was, Prozac and seizure medicine on that Saturday.
“When he got out of his van, he was so messed up he could hardly walk,” she said.
“It’s hard to sleep at night, knowing I was so close to death,” she said. “Then hearing gunshots. One cop told me it wasn’t my fault, I did what I could.”
Prosecutor Meyer on Thursday released his findings, outlining the reasons for his decision about McKnight. The eight page document is in the form of a letter to Thurston County sheriff’s detective Dave Haller, part of the team of officers from outside nearby sheriff’s offices who conducted the shooting investigation.
Some of the information discovered may help explain Petersen’s actions, Meyer wrote, such as apparent suicide attempts, and a note left to his son.
However, the focus of the investigation was whether or not McKnight’s use of deadly force was justifiable.
Meyer said he received the report on Tuesday, and reviewed it along with photos, recordings and video taken at the scene. He had his opinion reviewed by attorneys both inside and outside his office, including Thurston County Prosecutor Jon Tunheim, according to the letter.
On Wednesday morning, Meyer met with Sheriff Steve Mansfield and McKnight and gave them a draft of his conclusions, Meyer said.
The elected prosecutor summed it up this way:
Deputy McKnight was told Petersen had used a knife at the home – on the 500 block of West Washington Street – and despite multiple commands heard by others to take his hand out of his pocket, Petersen said, “That ain’t gonna happen”.
Meyer said Petersen was pacing back and forth, and then tensed up his shoulders and started running at the deputy.
“McKnight was left with no choice,” Meyer said. “(Petersen) was intending to do him harm, and McKnight was in fear for his life.”
McKnight fired. According to Meyer, one bullet entered Petersen’s left forearm and exited between his fingers, and another entered his right forearm and his torso and went out the back. The other struck him in the head.
His left hand was still in his jacket pocket, Meyer said.
No weapon was found in the pocket or anywhere else, Meyer said.
“But realize, where the shooting occurred was approximately seven blocks from the incident,” Meyer said.
McKnight did not fire a warning shot, Meyer said; his understanding is that would be contrary to the deputy’s training.
It was just McKnight and Petersen on the street, at the intersection of West Vine Street and Second Avenue, several blocks from Mecca’s home, Meyer said.
Sheriff Steve Mansfield said this week it will take some time to conduct the internal investigation. It will include a “shooting review board”, as well as a review of policy, procedures and training, he said.
It’s like a self-critique of his office, the sheriff said on Thursday.
“To make sure everything is working like it should and there’s nothing we need to change,” Mansfield said.
McKnight, who started at the sheriff’s office a little more than four years ago was one of the younger officers they’ve hired, Mansfield said, and as best he could recall on Thursday without checking, it’s the the first law enforcement agency he’s worked at, he said.
Officers from both inside and outside his office will sit on the shooting review board, he said.
“I have no reason to believe this (for McKnight) will turn out any different than the prosecutor has said,” Mansfield said.
The following are more details from Meyer’s report, the Napavine police incident report, and Mecca, about what happened at Mecca’s home, and afterward.
Late that Sunday night, early Monday morning, Mecca and her friend, 29-year-old Jared Brockman were sitting on the couch when they heard someone tapping on a window and then heard someone on the front porch. It was Petersen. He said, “let me in”, she said. They told him to leave.
Brockman then heard Petersen hitting his truck, so he went outside and yelled at him to knock it off, Mecca said. That’s when Petersen turned and ran towards the front door.
They shut the door, locked it and Brockman leaned against it with his shoulder. Petersen was kicking the door, they thought. They called 911
At 1:57 a.m., Brockman tells 911 a guy is trying to break into the house, and it’s Steven Petersen. Brockman arms himself with a baseball bat.
Law enforcement begins to respond and “set up containment” in the area.
Napavine Police Department Officer Noel Shields is dispatched at 1:59 a.m. He walks into Mecca’s yard with his flashlight. He sees footsteps in the wet grass that lead toward Meadow Lane. He sees Mecca and Brockman on the porch.
Deputy McKnight responds and is sent to the area of Third Avenue and West Vine Street for “containment”.
Also responding are sheriff’s Sgt. Pat Smith and Deputy Kevin Anderson.
Officer Shields observes holes in the hood of the truck and five holes in the front door that appear to be caused by a knife. Three of the punctures went through the door.
Shields informs the other responding officers that Petersen is possibly armed with a large knife.
Shields, in checking the property, gets to the back door and then hears four to five gunshots.
Blocks away and moments earlier, McKnight had seen something in his rearview mirror, a couple blocks from him. He sees something again he concludes is a person near Second and Vine. He turns around and pulls his patrol vehicle to the intersection
McKnight uses his spotlight and stops on one side of the intersection, while the person later identified as Petersen is on the other side.
McKnight exits his patrol vehicle, keeping his distance, and makes contact with Petersen.
McKnight identifies himself and tells Petersen he needs to see his hands.
Petersen paces back and forth, ignoring McKnight, who then draws his weapon.
McKnight tells Petersen he just needs to talk and continues to give him verbal commands..
After being given a verbal command, Petersen told McKnight, “It ain’t gonna happen buddy.”
Petersen’s body posture changes, his shoulders come forward and he begins to advance on McKnight.
McKnight still could not see his hands.
McKnight feared for his safety, and fired his weapon.
After hearing the shots, Shields runs from the Mecca’s house toward the scene. Anderson and Smith arrive.
At 2:14 a.m., Lewis County Fire District 5 is told by a 911 dispatcher to respond.
Read Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer’s findings on Deputy Matt McKnight’s officer-involved shooting from June 20, 2011, here
Read “Breaking news: Deputy shoots, kills burglary suspect in Napavine” from Monday June 20, 2011, here