Bend police Officer Erick Supplee was justified in the fatal shooting of Tyler Keinonen last Nov. 22 at the back of a northeast Bend home raided earlier in the day because he believed Keinonen had a gun and was about to shoot him, Deschutes County District Attorney Patrick Flaherty ruled in a report issued Wednesday.
While confirming that it turned out that Keinonen, 31, was unarmed and no gun was found, Flaherty said at a news conference Wednesday, “Officer Supplee had a reasonable belief that he was going to be shot and killed."
In his five-page findings, Flaherty outlined the sequence of events that led to the deadly encounter. He noted that Oregon State Police, who conducted the investigation, “interviewed every person known to have had contact with Mr. Keinonen in the days and hours leading up to his death and learned that Mr. Keinonen was heavily involved in illegal drug activity, burglary and theft.”
While some friends had said in public comments that Keinonen went to the home, raided 10 hours earlier, to retrieve some clothes or other personal belongings, Flaherty wrote, “Witnesses said he went to the (NE) Jackdaw (Drive) residence to collect a drug debt.”
Flaherty told reporters, "Our victims assistance program has had contact with the family. I personally have not spoken with them, and that may occur now that the investigation is complete."
A lab analysis of Keinonen’s blood found “he was heavily under the influence of methamphetamine at the time of his death and confirmed witness statements that he had also consumed Oxycodone,” the DA wrote, adding, “His drug use may explain his failure to respond to the officer’s commands” to put up his hands.
An autopsy found Keinonen died of a single gunshot wound to the chest, but state Medical Examiner Dr. Karen Gunson also found “a grazing gunshot wound on his left forearm,” Flaherty said, which “strongly corroborates Officer Supplee’s statement regarding the position of Mr. Keinonen’s hands when he shot him.”
Police returned to the home at 2878 NE Jackdaw Drive around 10:20 p.m. after a citizen called 911 dispatchers to report suspicious activity and a “possible break-in” at the residence, including vehicles pulling up, people walking to the front door and trying unsuccessfully to enter, then going around to the back and lights coming on and going off, Flaherty wrote.
Officers had been told about the search warrant execution earlier in the day, related to a series of trailer thefts and related drug crimes.
Flaherty said stolen items, guns and drugs were found and seized at the home during the raid, some 10 hours earlier -- but a handgun and "a large amount of ammunition" also found during the search were not seized, apparently because they were not believed to be in illegal possession.
"Police did find and seize stolen property and drugs," Flaherty told reporters. "Police did search the house after the shooting. We did find ammunition in the house. We also located a 9 mm magazine. We did not find a 9 mm pistol. I believe we also found a long gun in the house, and there was some drug paraphernalia in the house as well."
During their patrol briefing, officers including Supplee also were told three people who lived at the home had been arrested and a fourth, Keinonen, was at large and wanted.
Cpl. Troy Wiles, one of the other officers called to the home, called the county jail and spoke with one of the arrested people. He said he was told only a female had permission to be inside.
Officer Justin Lovrien recognized a red Jeep, one of three cars parked in front, as one associated with a theft case he worked days before, and associated with Keinonen.
As officers Lovrien and Victor Umnitz decided to knock on the front door, Supplee, a nearly 11-year veteran of the force, was assessing the area around the home to decide how he and his K-9 partner, Zlatan, could assist in catching anyone who might try to flee, the DA said.
He saw a wooden fence enclosing the back yard and decided to take a position near the only gate, on the west side of the home.
Flaherty said it was “objectively reasonable” for Supplee to believe a burglary was in progress and the suspect would run when confronted. The DA noted the earlier raid had not been a “run of the mill” operation, as those in the home refused to open the door, forcing officers to use a key to force it open, and a woman came at officers and resisted arrest.
As Supplee and his K-9 waited in the dark on the side of the home, the other officers radioed they saw a male and female moving in and out of rooms inside. Soon, Umnitz advised that someone inside knew police were there, and that the male was walking toward the back of the house.
“I thought, ‘What’s he walking toward the back of that house for?” Supplee later told investigators. “I know that a female is in there, is he going back there to get a weapon, or what’s he doing?”
Soon, through the slots of the gate, Supplee said he saw “the silhouette of a man walking toward him,” and later told investigators that “just was not what I expected at all -- like, the guy is either going to stay in the house, he’s going to come to the front door or he’s running out the back door, going over the fence.”
“In my mind, I’m like, ‘He’s sneaking up on us, he’s going to ambush those officers that he knows are in the front of the house.'" Supplee told investigators. "There’s just no reason for him to be coming on that side of the house.”
Supplee reached down to pull Zlatan closer, and "heard the gate latch rattle“ and saw through the slats of the fence that the man was holding a smartphone in one hand and gripping what he describes as a ‘bulge’ in the other hand, and that his hands were close together,” Flaherty wrote.
Supplee told investigators it was “like the tactical position that we clear houses in – a flashlight in one hand, gun in the other hand, close together – exactly how we clear a building as police officers when we train at the range at night.”
The officer said he “believed that the man was pointing a gun at him and that he yelled ‘Police!’ and either ‘Let me see your hands!’ or ‘Show me your hands!’” Flaherty wrote.
“The gate suddenly flew open toward (Supplee),” the DA said, and Supplee said the man “’stayed in that same exact position,’ with the illuminated cell phone in one hand and what Officer Supplee believed to be a gun in the other hand, pointed directly at him.”