News release from Camas Police Department provides in-depth details from investigation
VANCOUVER — The Regional Major Crimes Team released additional details Friday from its investigation of the recent shooting involving Vancouver Police detectives.
The Regional Major Crimes Team (RMCT) has been investigating an officer involved shooting that occurred on March 7 at the 2500 block of NE 78th Street. That shooting took place during the course of a traffic stop involving Carlos M. Hunter, 43, of Vancouver, Washington. Two Vancouver Police Department detectives discharged their service weapons, striking Hunter, who died at the scene.
The investigation conducted to date has revealed additional details regarding what transpired leading up to the traffic stop and what precipitated the shooting. RMCT detectives have interviewed the involved officers, spoken to citizen witnesses, and have collected evidence from the incident. Information contained in Friday’s press release from the Camas Police Department has been derived from the combination of those sources.
Prior to the date of the shooting, officers from the Vancouver Police Department had obtained a District Court Search Warrant for the residence, vehicle and person of Hunter. Hunter was suspected of being in possession of a controlled substance, with the intent to deliver.
Officers from the Safe Streets Task Force, assisted by officers from the Neighborhood Response Team, were coordinating the service of the search warrant. That coordination included planning on how the search warrant could be served in the safest possible manner. The Vancouver Police prepared an Operational Plan for the execution of the warrant, a standard practice in law enforcement. The Operational Plan was shared with all of the officers who were participating in the service of the warrant. It included information about the suspected offense, officer safety information, information about Hunter, including his prior criminal history, location information as well as a tactical plan.
The Operational Plan indicated that it was preferable to engage Hunter outside of his residence if possible, either on foot or in a vehicle.
The Operational Plan also contained specific information that Hunter was suspected of drug distribution, had been convicted of violent felonies and was known to carry a firearm. The plan also included information that Hunter was “stated to be a gang member.” In earlier media releases, law enforcement sources reported that Hunter was “a known gang member.”
The investigation found that the earlier reference to gang affiliation came from the personal knowledge of some officers on scene as well as information communicated to the officers in the Operational Plan.
On March 7, officers were watching Hunter’s residence in preparation to serve the search warrant. They observed him walk to his vehicle and drive away. Officers followed Hunter’s vehicle and near the 2500 block of NE 78th Street, activated their emergency lights and performed a traffic stop.
The traffic stop was performed using a fully marked Vancouver Police vehicle and the officers who approached Hunter’s vehicle were also wearing clothing that identified them as law enforcement officers.
The Clark Regional Emergency Service Agency (CRESA) logged the time the officers went out on the traffic stop as 1:34 p.m. Two officers initiated the traffic stop and were very quickly joined by two other officers. In total, three Vancouver police officers, and one officer from the Department of Corrections, were present at the scene of the traffic stop. Hunter was the sole occupant of his vehicle.
CRESA records would show the officers radioed that shots had been fired at 1:39 p.m., approximately 5 minutes after the announcement of the traffic stop.
There is no video or audio record of what transpired during the traffic stop, leading up to the shooting.
Officer interviews indicated that Hunter was verbally communicating with the officers when they first approached. They had identified themselves as police officers and based on his verbal responses, he recognized them as such. And, although he was verbally communicating with them, he was not following their commands and directions. He was advised he was being detained for a search warrant of his person and his vehicle and that he would need to get out of the vehicle so that both searches could be conducted. Hunter was described as becoming increasingly argumentative, refusing to get out of the vehicle or follow police orders.
During this period, Hunter continued to place his hands down near his waist where they could not be seen resulting in the officers making repeated commands for him to keep his hands up, where they could see them.
The officers indicated that they continued to try to get Hunter to exit the vehicle and he continued to not comply and to argue with them. The driver’s side door of Hunter’s vehicle was open and officers tried to physically remove him from the car. However, they were unsuccessful as Hunter struggled with them.
All three officers used their Taser on Hunter during this period in an attempt to gain control of him, however the Taser deployments were ineffective.
At that point, with officers still giving commands for Hunter to keep his hands where they can be seen, they indicated that they observed Hunter quickly reach down near his right front pants pocket. They advised that they observed a handgun in that right front pants pocket and one officer shouted to the others that Hunter had a gun.
The officer who had been partially inside the vehicle who was physically struggling with Hunter released his hold and jumped back. Officers then saw Hunter stick his hand down and grab the handle of the handgun as he attempted to remove it from his right pants pocket.
Detective Dennis Devlin and Detective Colton Price, who had been standing at opposite sides of Hunter’s vehicle, discharged their firearms. Hunter was struck in the torso several times.
Medical aid was requested and provided to Hunter, however he did not survive.
Other than the shots fired by the two Vancouver detectives, no other shots were fired. A Smith & Wesson 40 caliber handgun, the one seen by the officers in Hunter’s possession, was seized as evidence. The firearm had been reported stolen from a Vancouver home in 2017.
The investigation is ongoing and nothing additional is available for release at this time.
Information provided by Camas Police Department.