Video: Wash. police fatally shoot suicidal armed veteran

Body camera shows sheriff's deputies pleading with a despondent Jedadiah Zillmer, 23, to put down his gun before they shoot him

By Nina Culver
The Spokesman-Review

SPOKANE, Wash. — A body camera video released this week shows Spokane County sheriff's deputies pleading with a despondent Jedadiah Zillmer, 23, to put down his gun before they shot and killed him in a confrontation near the Spokane Valley Mall on Feb. 12.

Some of the entreaties were shouted so Zillmer could hear them. Others were said in voice barely above a whisper.

The camera was affixed to the chest of Liberty Lake police Officer Jeff Jones. It's the first time a law enforcement shooting has been captured by a police body camera in Spokane County. In Coeur d'Alene last summer, a police body camera recorded an officer's fatal shooting of a man wielding knives in an apartment.

Zillmer led officers on a high-speed chase from north Spokane to Idaho along Interstate 90 and back. Jones joined the chase when the cars passed Liberty Lake.

Previously released radio traffic between deputies and dispatchers indicate that Zillmer was on the phone with dispatchers suggesting that he wanted police to shoot him.

The death of Zillmer has drawn more attention to the plight of war veterans struggling with mental and physical problems related to their battlefield experiences. Zillmer's family has said they believed he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.

The body camera is activated after the chase ended near Spokane Valley Mall. Not much can be seen for the first few minutes as Jones crouches behind a patrol car for cover, but the audio is clear. Jones asks a deputy if Zillmer is a veteran. "Yeah," the deputy responds. "Purple Heart plates."

Deputies can be heard shouting "Don't do it, man," and "It ain't worth it." Someone close to Jones whispers, "Give it up, man," and Jones can be heard pleading, "C'mon, dude, just put down the gun."

A police K-9 barks constantly in the background. Jones can be heard swearing when a car full of shouting teenagers drives by. Then Jones apparently sees something that the camera cannot. "What is he, taking off his vest?"

"Yup," an unidentified deputy responds. "Making it easier for us."

Seconds later, shots ring out. Jones swears, then swears again after he jumps up and sees Zillmer's body lying on the pavement next to his car. Things get even more chaotic when someone shouts, "He's still breathing!"

A flurry of activity ensues and there's talk of calling for the bomb squad while someone shouts for deputies to back up. Several deputies approach Zillmer cautiously, rifles at the ready.

"Make sure this inside hand doesn't have a (expletive) device in it," someone says.

"He was reaching into a pocket inside the vest," another voice says.

By this time, deputies are next to Zillmer. "Can I move the gun?" someone asks. "Move it over there," another responds. Deputies apparently finished their search of Zillmer without finding any sign of explosives. "I don't see anything," someone says.

Medics are called up to help Zillmer. Right before the video ends, Jones examines Zillmer's car with a flashlight, briefly spotlighting what appears to be two rifles in the back seat.

Zillmer served in the U.S. Army as a sniper and earned a Purple Heart during a battle in Afghanistan in February 2011.

The deputies who fired at Zillmer were Brian Hirzel, Jeff Thurman, Dale Moyer, Ryan Walter, Brett Hubbell and Randy Watts. The investigation into the shooting was led by the Spokane Police Department.

The case was recently forwarded to the Spokane County Prosecutor's Office with a recommendation that no charges be filed.

Copyright 2014 The Spokesman-Review

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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