Yakima PD observes ‘alarming trend’ of violence against officers following 4th officer-involved shooting in a year

YAKIMA, Wash. — Yakima police are observing an “alarming trend” of violence against law enforcement, including an incident Monday night where a suspect in a stolen vehicle case opened fire on officers.

“We’ve now had four officer involved shootings in 12 months,” Chief Matt Murray said. “In each of these cases, officers were confronted and threatened or shot at by a suspect.”

Murray said they’ve seen a decline in crime overall and especially in stolen vehicle cases. He said that’s due to the department’s new Flock cameras, which use artificial intelligence to track license plates and cars through the city.

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Instead of officers happening upon a stolen car while they’re on patrol, they’re able to find vehicles more easily and come up with a plan ahead of time for how they’re going to apprehend the suspect.

“This Flock camera technology is remarkably game changing,” Murray said. “Unfortunately, we’re also seeing more violence on the part of suspects when confronted by police.”

Police used that technology last month to track down a domestic violence suspect, despite the fact that he reportedly attempted to conceal his location by painting his vehicle white.

But the Flock cameras recognized the car anyway and when officers attempted to take the suspect into custody, the incident ended with an officer-involved shooting.

Murray said officers were similarly alerted late Monday night of a stolen car at a gas station near North First Street and West Bartlett Place and made a plan to surround the suspect to take him into custody.

However, police said the 30-year-old man ran away from them and when officers came after him, he reportedly turned around and shot at them. Murray said two officers returned fire and the suspect suffered multiple gunshot wounds.

Murray said the man repeatedly refused to put his hands up to show officers he was unarmed and they had to deploy their K9 officer to get him to comply.

“When the suspect was hit, officers immediately began rendering aid — a lot of them have a very high-end medical kit — and likely their actions may have saved that man’s life,” Murray said.

The 30-year-old was taken to Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital, then transferred to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle for further treatment. As of Tuesday afternoon, authorities said he was in critical condition.

Murray said per their standard procedure, the two officers who returned fire on the suspect have been placed on administrative leave pending further internal investigation by YPD.

The incident is being investigated externally by the Yakima Valley Special Investigations Unit, a team of law enforcement officers from agencies across the county responsible for investigating uses of force.

Murray said in addition to having four officer-involved shootings in the past 12 months, local police officers are facing assaults and threats at a greater frequency than before.

“Bear in mind that we also have a corrections officer who was seriously assaulted in our jail in November,” Murray said. “He is still unable to return to work.”

Murray said he’s troubled by the amount of people who have access to guns and are willing to use them to commit crimes, especially because it makes it that much harder to have a peaceful resolution when they need to apprehend a suspect who is armed.

“We certainly don’t want to to have armed confrontations with suspects, but as I said in my remarks, this department is very courageous and willing to engage people to lower crime, so I guess my hope is that we don’t continue to see this, but it’s not within our control,” Murray said.

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