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Why did description of suspect in deputy’s killing change so dramatically? The sheriff’s department explains

Frank Pawul

TACOMA, Wash. – The Pierce County sheriff’s department explained Tuesday why the description of the man suspected of killing Dep. Daniel McCartney changed dramatically during the course of the investigation.

Frank Pawul, a 32-year-old white man, was taken into custody Monday morning on unrelated felony warrants, and investigators identified him as the suspect in the killing Monday afternoon.

When a description of the suspect was first released, however, he was described as a black man. The sheriff’s department later updated the description to say the man was “mixed race or white.” Many Q13 News viewers reached out on social media to ask for an explanation on how the seemingly contradictory information came to be released.

As most news outlets do, Q13 relies entirely on law enforcement for suspect descriptions and did so in this case. Det. Ed Troyer said the evolving description reflects a reality detectives commonly deal with during the early stages of processing a chaotic crime scene.

“When investigators first got to the scene and interviewed witnesses, they told us the suspect who was running away was a black male,” Troyer said.

Troyer said the suspect was wearing a black ski mask and black hoodie in an extremely dark area, adding to the confusion.

The following morning, detectives interviewed the people who were in the house during the home invasion.

“They described the suspect as white or mixed race and that’s when we put out an updated suspect description,” said Det. Troyer.

Troyer said the reason detectives didn't at first suspect Pawul in the killing was because they themselves believed the suspect was black based on those early witness interviews.

“As soon as we had new information telling us otherwise, we changed the description,” Troyer said. “We are not going to purposefully put out wrong information when we are asking for public’s help.”