Two Auburn Police Officers are on administrative leave following an officer-involved shooting in the early morning hours of Monday, May 20th. Friends and family have identified the man killed as Auburn native EJ Strickland.
Officers dispatched to the Palermo Apartment Complex off Lake Tapps Parkway East at 12:47 am in response to a verbal domestic dispute call. When on scene, officers contacted Strickland in the complex parking lot.
“A physical altercation ensued in the parking lot between [Strickland] and officers. [Strickland] displayed a knife during this altercation. After commands were given to drop the knife, one shot was fired by an officer,” states the APD press release.
APD requested Valley Regional Fire Authority at 1:26am. Strickland was pronounced dead at the scene as the result of a single gunshot wound. “A death determination is usually done in combination with King County Medic One,” explained VRFA Public Information Officer Kimberly Terhune. However, “in this particular instance, VRFA crews made the death determination.”
No other parties were injured or required medical aid confirmed Terhune.
Terhune also shared how being on the scene of officer-involved shooting effects responding VRFA members. “We are [emotionally] impacted for the officer and the citizens and family members [involved]. Also, a traumatic death is difficult for our firefighters.”
A vigil for Strickland was held by friends and family at the Palermo Apartment complex Monday evening.
VIT Handling The Investigation
APD Public Information Officer Commander Steve Stocker confirmed the Valley Investigations Team (VIT) is handling the investigation at this time. “We step back and let the Valley Investigations Team do their investigation,” said Stocker.
VIT is comprised of investigators from Auburn, Des Moines, Federal Way, Kent, Port of Seattle, Renton, and Tukwila. No members of VIT from APD are a part of this investigation. VIT performs the investigation to ensure “it is an independent investigation,” explained Stocker. “It also helps our officers by having additional resources so we’re not tying up all of our people.”
Once the VIT investigation is complete, the Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office will determine if charges will be filed.
VIT will provide APD a preliminary briefing in the coming days. Stocker explained that after this briefing, further details about the incident will be provided to the public.
The identities of the involved officers have not been released. Both officers have been placed on administrative leave, as is the protocol in officer-involved shootings. The last APD officer-involved shooting was in November 2017.
At this time only very basic information has been released about this incident. As a news outlet, we will do our part to ensure transparency in this matter is maintained. We ask for the sake of our community, and all those involved, that speculation is withheld. In complex matters such as these, when a life has been lost, the game of telephone can be not only divisive but also emotionally detrimental to all parties involved.