Stressing it is not an indicator of wrongdoing, Klickitat County’s prosecutor is holding a coroner’s inquest into the Oct. 16 fatal shooting in Wishram of a rape suspect by a The Dalles police officer.
The inquest is set for Jan. 27-28 in Klickitat County and is open to the public. The five-member jury will determine the manner and cause of death in the shooting.
The Dalles Police Det. Jamie Carrico was in Wishram, along with other officers, to question Adrian Suarez, 22, suspected of raping a pre-teen girl in The Dalles.
Suarez fled a home and fired a gun at Carrico, wounding him in the side. Carrico returned fire and Suarez was fatally wounded.
Klickitat County Prosecutor Lori Hoctor said, “We don’t think there was any wrongdoing, it’s not any of that at all. It’s our standard protocol [to hold an inquest] if there’s an officer-involved shooting. We just haven’t had any in 20 years.”
It is considered best practice in Washington to call a coroner’s inquest whenever a police officer fatally shoots someone, she said.
“It’s just important that the public sees that nothing is being covered up and everything is being looked at and exposed so there’s no question of, ‘Well, did they do something.’ And I think it’s helpful to the officer as well; there’s no question, there’s no whispering, because everything is exposed,” Hoctor said.
“When you do it the other way and just brush it aside, even if nothing happened, people have the ability to say, ‘Well, maybe.’ So we just want to get the facts out.”
In all Washington counties under 40,000 population, the prosecutor also serves as the coroner. Hoctor called the inquest in her capacity as coroner. However, for the inquest, she will preside as judge, while Brian Aaron, another prosecutor in the Klickitat County Prosecutor’s Office, will act as coroner and question witnesses.
Hoctor said it is not a criminal proceeding, but more of an administrative proceeding. “It’s not an adversarial process, it’s really just presenting the evidence,” she said.
Unlike on a criminal jury, the inquest jurors will be allowed to submit questions to the judge throughout the proceeding.
Hoctor expects the inquest will take one day, but has allowed for two. It took so long to schedule the inquest because Klickitat County’s courthouse only has one courtroom and it wasn’t available until this time.
Hoctor met earlier with Carrico and his attorney and The Dalles Police Chief Jay Waterbury to talk about the inquest.
“They took it pretty good. The only one that seemed a little angry that we’re doing it, and it may be his job, is the attorney for the officer. [He said] ‘Why are you doing this? You don’t need to do this.’ He got a little nasty. But he’s just doing his job. He’s gotten a little better.”
She also said that because the prosecutor also serves as the coroner, it is especially important that “no one perceives us of being too law enforcement friendly or not law enforcement friendly enough, or any other outside influence other than just the facts.”
A month or so before this shooting, a similar shooting occurred near Biggs, where an Oregon State Police trooper was fired upon and wounded by a motorist he’d pulled over, and the trooper returned fire and killed the motorist.
In that case, the Sherman County prosecutor reviewed the evidence and ruled the shooting justified.