YAKIMA, Wash. — A Wapato police officer was justified in fatally shooting a domestic-violence suspect in July, Yakima County’s top prosecutor said in a ruling issued Thursday.
Prosecuting Attorney Joe Brusic ruled that officer Michael Campos shot Mario Martinez Torres, 38, only after he believed that Martinez Torres was a threat to his own safety and the safety of a fellow officer, Sgt. Larry Ehrhardt.
“Officer Campos will not be charged with a crime in regards to this incident. He acted rationally and prudently as he had been trained,” Brusic wrote in his six-page decision.
Brusic said Thursday evening that he understood the suspect’s family and others would likely disagree with his decision.
Martinez Torres’ family, through an attorney, has called the shooting “needless.”
Both the family and the state Commission on Hispanic Affairs have asked for an independent federal investigation.
Brusic said he already agreed to send a copy of his report to Michael Ormsby, the top federal prosecutor in Eastern Washington.
But Brusic said he believed the investigation was fair and that his decision was supported by the best facts available.
“I feel very confident in the decision I made,” Brusic said. “Based on the facts and the law, I believe it was the right decision to make based on everything I have at my disposal.”
An attorney representing the family could not be reached for comment Thursday.
David Morales, a member of the Hispanic Affairs Commission who lives in Yakima, declined to speak about the decision because he had not yet reviewed Brusic’s report. The commission chairman could not be reached.
Brusic’s report provided a summary of the events leading up to Martinez Torres’ death:
Campos told investigators that he fired on Martinez Torres after being knocked backwards into a bathtub at a home belonging to the suspect’s family. Police had been called because Martinez Torres was arguing with his girlfriend; Martinez Torres was found in the small bathroom.
Campos and Ehrhardt reported that they struggled with Martinez Torres without being able to bring him under control. The officers said the suspect wrested Campos’ Taser from him after reaching for the officer’s gun while Campos was stuck in the tub. Martinez Torres shocked Ehrhardt with the Taser but Ehrhardt was not disabled.
“(Campos) observed the suspect turn back at him with Taser in hand and, based upon all the facts and circumstances presented to him at that moment, believed in good faith that he had no other option but to utilize deadly force upon Mr. Torres,” Brusic wrote in his ruling.
Campos fired four shots, fatally wounding the man.
Toxicology tests showed that Martinez Torres had used alcohol and methamphetamine, Brusic wrote.
The suspect’s brother told Campos at the scene that Martinez Torres was high on drugs and that he wanted him arrested, the report said.
Martinez Torres was the seventh person to be fatally shot by police in Yakima County since 2014. All have been ruled justified by Brusic or his predecessor, Jim Hagarty.