OLYMPIA -- An independent investigation has been launched after an Olympia police officer shot two brothers who allegedly attacked him with a skateboard after he stopped them for an attempted shoplifting incident.
Olympia Police Chief Ronnie Roberts and Olympia Mayor Stephen Buxbaum called for calm.
"Olympia is a community that cares deeply about social justice," Roberts said. "It's important that we stand together as a community during the investigation."
While police say there's no indication that race played a factor in the shooting, the two wounded brothers, 21-year-old Bryson Chaplin and 23-year-old Andre Thompson, are black and the Olympia police officer is white.
The chief acknowledged the sensitivity of racial issues and policing in stating the race of the men and police officer.
Police received calls of an assault around 12:52 a.m. Thursday at a Safeway grocery store near Cooper Point Road NW and 14th Avenue NW. Officers arrived at the store, Roberts said, and learned that two young black men carrying skateboards attempted to steal a case of beer. When they were confronted by store employees, the young men allegedly threw the beer at the employees and ran out of the store.
At 1:14 a.m., 35-year-old police officer Ryan Donald, a three-year veteran of the force, radioed other officers to report he had encountered two men matching the suspects' description. About two minutes later, at 1:16 a.m., Donald radioed in that he fired his weapon and the two men were shot.
Both brothers were taken to the hospital. Chaplin, the younger brother, was in critical condition but updated to serious Friday. Thompson is in serious condition, police said. The officer was not hurt.
Thurston County sheriff's Chief Deputy Brad Watkins told reporters Thursday afternoon that hospital officials told them that both wounded men are expected to survive.
It's what happened between those two minutes after the officer radioed he had spotted the suspects and before he radioed again to report shots fired that remain largely in question, Roberts said.
According to a preliminary investigation, Donald said he was assaulted by the men at the rear of the patrol car with a skateboard. Donald then fired his gun and hit one of the men, Roberts said, and the two brothers ran into a nearby treeline.
The brothers emerged from the woods seconds later, Roberts said, and Donald fired his weapon multiple times. It is unknown if a second confrontation between Donald and the brothers occurred, Roberts said.
Following the shooting, the Thurston County Critical Incident Team -- composed of multiple different law enforcement agencies -- began investigating the shooting.
Roberts said there was no indication that race played a factor in the shooting.
Both Roberts and Buxbaum recognized the seriousness of the situation, especially given recent events in Ferguson, Mo., and Baltimore involving white officers and black suspects, and sensitivity regarding race relations.
"Frankly, I've spent several hours with my staff discussing some of the challenges going on across this nation," Roberts said.
Both officials urged calm in Olympia, allowing investigators time to complete a full report.
"We have to be realistic, these are difficult situations," Roberts said. "I hope the community gives the investigation time to proceed."
At 11:30 a.m., people in Olympia began protesting the shooting, chanting "stolen beer does not equal stolen lives."
Hundreds turned out at about 6 p.m. Thursday to hold a rally and march to protest the shooting.
Watkins said investigators had interviewed more than 20 people, including Thompson in the hospital, but had not yet interviewed the police officer. He said they did not schedule an interview with the officer until next Tuesday, because, he said, it has been found that officers remember more about a shooting 48-72 hours after the fact.
Watkins said investigators also have surveillance video from the Safeway store, and that the investigation could take three to six weeks to complete.
At the same afternoon news conference, Thurston County prosecutor Jon Tunheim said they must determine if the officer acted in a "reasonable" way or if charges need to be filed.
He added that the bar is high in this state, adding that a Washington state statute says officers cannot be prosecuted for use of force if they acted in "good faith and without malice."
The city of Olympia set up a website to keep people informed about the latest updates, as well as release audio and video recordings as they become available. That site is here.