Washington state police officer shoots two men accused of stealing beer

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Washington State Police Officer Shoots Two Unarmed Beer Theft Suspects

A police officer in the Washington state capital of Olympia shot and wounded two unarmed black men suspected of trying to steal beer from a supermarket on Thursday, law enforcement said, prompting protests in the city.

The two brothers, aged 21 and 24, were hospitalized, one in critical condition with multiple gunshot wounds, Olympia Police Chief Ronnie Roberts told a news conference.

Officer Ryan Donald, who had been with the Olympia Police Department for three years, told authorities the men had no weapons but attacked him with a skateboard, and that he had issued a verbal warning before opening fire.

The incident follows a series of fatal police confrontations across the United States that have put law enforcement agencies under scrutiny over the use of force, particularly against minorities.

After reports of the shooting, several protests took place in Olympia, a city of about 48,000 people where only 2 percent of the population is black, according to U.S. Census data.

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Washington state police officer shoots two men accused of stealing beer
Olympia Police Chief Ronnie Roberts, center, stands with prosecutor Jon Tunheim, right, and Thurston County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Brad Watkins, left, as they wait to talk to reporters, Thursday, May 21, 2015, in Olympia, Wash. Two stepbrothers suspected of trying to steal beer from the store were shot early Thursday in Olympia by a police officer who confronted them nearby and reported he was being assaulted with a skateboard. The stepbrothers are expected to survive. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
City Mayor Stephen H. Buxbaum, right, speaks to the media about a police-involved shooting as City Manager Steve Hall, left, looks on, Thursday, May 21, 2015, in Olympia, Wash. Police say that two stepbrothers suspected of trying to steal beer from a grocery store were not armed when they were shot by a police officer who later confronted them. (AP Photo/Rachel La Corte)
A Safeway grocery store is photographed Thursday, May 21, 2015, in Olympia, Wash. Two stepbrothers suspected of trying to steal beer from the store were shot early Thursday in Olympia by a police officer who confronted them nearby and reported he was being assaulted with a skateboard. The stepbrothers are expected to survive. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Protesters, including Aaron Harris, left, hold signs outside the Olympia Police Department headquarters, Thursday, May 21, 2015, in Olympia, Wash. The demonstration came after two stepbrothers suspected of trying to steal beer were shot early Thursday in Olympia by a police officer who confronted them and reported he was being assaulted with a skateboard. The stepbrothers are expected to survive. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Hundreds of people protesting a police shooting gather outside of City Hall in Olympia, Wash., on Thursday, May 21, 2015. Police say that two stepbrothers suspected of trying to steal beer from a grocery store were unarmed when they were shot by an officer who later confronted them. (AP Photo/Rachel La Corte)
Thurston County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Brad Watkins, right, talks to reporters as Prosecutor Jon Tunheim looks on at left, Thursday, May 21, 2015, in Olympia, Wash. Two stepbrothers suspected of trying to steal beer from the store were shot overnight in Olympia by a police officer who confronted them nearby and said he was being assaulted with a skateboard. Both stepbrothers were expected to survive, but were hospitalized. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
A protester holds a sign Thursday, May 21, 2015, during a rally at a park in Olympia, Wash. Two stepbrothers suspected of trying to steal beer were shot Thursday by a police officer in Olympia. The officer reported he was being assaulted with a skateboard early Thursday before the shooting that left a 21-year-old man critically injured and a 24-year-old man in stable condition. Both are expected to survive. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Hundreds of people protesting a police shooting gather outside of City Hall in Olympia, Wash., on Thursday, May 21, 2015. Police say that two stepbrothers suspected of trying to steal beer from a grocery store were unarmed when they were shot by a police officer who confronted them. (AP Photo/Rachel La Corte)
Protesters holdhands outside of City Hall in Olympia, Wash., on Thursday, May 21, 2015. Two stepbrothers suspected of trying to steal beer from a grocery store were not armed with guns when they were shot Thursday by a police officer who confronted them in Washington state's capital city, authorities said. (AP Photo/Rachel La Corte)
Rafael Ruiz speaks through a megaphone to a crowd gathered at a park to protest a police shooting in Olympia, Wash., on Thursday, May 21, 2015. Police say that two stepbrothers suspected of trying to steal beer from a grocery store were not armed with guns when they were shot by a police officer who confronted them. (AP Photo/Rachel La Corte)
People listen to speakers Thursday, May 21, 2015, during a rally at a park in Olympia, Wash. Two stepbrothers suspected of trying to steal beer from a grocery store were shot early Thursday by a police officer after he confronted them and reported he was being assaulted with a skateboard. Both men are expected to survive. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
A Safeway grocery store is photographed Thursday, May 21, 2015, in Olympia, Wash. Two stepbrothers suspected of trying to steal beer from the store were shot early Thursday in Olympia by a police officer who confronted them nearby and reported he was being assaulted with a skateboard. The stepbrothers are expected to survive. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Nat Jackson, a 40-year resident of Olympia, Wash. and a civil rights advocate, sits outside Olympia City Hall, Thursday, May 21, 2015, in Olympia, Wash. as he goes over details of a city press release after two stepbrothers suspected of trying to steal beer were shot overnight in Olympia by a police officer who confronted them nearby and said he was being assaulted with a skateboard. Jackson said he came down to City Hall to try and get as many facts as he could about the incident. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
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Around 400 took to the streets on Thursday evening, meeting at a park before marching to City Hall, according to local newspaper The Olympian. Photos of the demonstration published by the paper showed a racially mixed group, with many whites taking part.

The police chief said Donald, who is white, and other officers responded to an assault call at a supermarket around 1 a.m. An employee reported that two men who were trying to steal beer had thrown the items at him and then ran away.

One man was shot in a confrontation with Donald, Roberts said, and the two suspects then ran into the woods. When they re-emerged, multiple shots were fired, Roberts said.

"There was some sort of confrontation there, and the officer felt threatened and discharged his firearm," Roberts said.

The men shot were identified as brothers Andre Thompson and Bryson Chaplin. Thompson, the older brother, was stable while Chaplin was critical but expected to survive, Chief Brad Watkins of the Thurston County Sheriff's Office said.

Donald was placed on administrative leave pending an investigation. The Olympia police will not be involved in the probe, Watkins said.

Olympia police are not equipped with body-worn cameras and there was no dashboard camera video of the incident, he said.

The Thurston County prosecuting attorney will review the investigation to decide if the use of force was reasonable.

(Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere; Additional reporting by Curtis Skinner; Editing by Cynthia Johnston, Will Dunham and Lisa Lambert)

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