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Olympia Mayor Hopes For 'Respectful' Response To Police Shooting

Olympia Mayor Stephen Buxbaum said he expects a “respectful” and non-violent response to the shooting of two unarmed black men by a white police officer.

The shooting happened early Thursday morning. The victims, said to be step-brothers in their 20s, were hospitalized and one man's condition has improved to stable.

Olympia Police Chief Ronnie Roberts told reporters at a morning press conference that two men in tried to steal beer from a Safeway grocery store and threw beers at an employee as they ran away. As police investigated overnight, Roberts said, two men near the store were confronted by an officer and assaulted him with a skateboard.

The officer shot those men, whom Roberts believes are the same men who tried to shoplift the beer.

At the City Hall news conference, both Buxbaum and Roberts called the shooting “tragic” and asked the community to come together and not be reactive.

The officer who shot the men was identified in the press conference as 35-year-old Ryan Donald, who has been on the force for three years. Donald is on leave while the shooting is being investigated. Last week Donald was honored with a commendation for his investigations of thefts and burglaries.

A recording of police radio traffic revealed Officer Donald responding to a fellow officer who asks if the suspects have a weapon.

“No, he was assaulting me with a skateboard,” Donald said. “I tried to grab his friend, they’re very aggressive just so you know.”

Roberts told reporters, "all lives matter," echoing a phrase that was popularized on social media in reaction to "black lives matter" demonstrations against police killings of unarmed black men and boys.

Protests have already begun. A small group gathered outside City Hall at the noon hour chanting, “Rise up, rise up. We want freedom, freedom.” Some held “Black Lives Matter” signs. Other signs said “Skateboards Don’t Kill” -- a reference to the fact the men who were shot reportedly had skateboards.

Merritt Long is black and has lived in Olympia for 40 years. The former chair of the state liquor control board came to the news conference with his wife.

"It's difficult not to go to that next step to say that this shouldn't have happened," Long said, "but I don't know that. We don't know that. We need to reserve judgment."

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."