Eyewitness contradicts police account of shooting

Eyewitness contradicts police account of shooting »Play Video
Investigators gather at the scene of the shooting on Saturday morning.
EVERETT - More questions than answers are emerging about the fatal shooting by police of an Everett man in his own home, as people come forward to tell what they know about the Saturday incident.

And now an eyewitness to the shooting says he saw no police lights or sirens before three officers opened fire on the man, identified by friends and family as Dustin Willard, 31.


 Dustin Willard
The eyewitness, Ryan Wilson, also says there was a first shot that preceded all the others, which contradicts the "official" version of what happened in the darkness after midnight Saturday in the 2400 block of 23rd Street in North Everett.

Wilson also says he heard only one warning from police - not repeated warnings, as they claim - for Willard to drop his gun before they fired multiple shots at him.

The incident began at 1:44 a.m. Saturday when police responded to a report of a burglary in progress in the North Everett neighborhood, said Rebecca Hover of the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office. Neighbors had called 911 to report a suspect smashing windows and breaking down the front door of a nearby house, Hover said.

But Wilson, who is a friend and neighbor of Willard's, says he heard Willard making noise at his own home and arguing with someone on his cell phone in the back yard.

Other friends say he was moving a barbecue smoker in the back yard. They say he had just arrived home after drinking with friends at the Irish Pub in downtown Everett earlier in the evening.

The first three officers to arrive approached the house where they were confronted by an armed man in the doorway of the house, say police. When he refused to comply with orders to put down his weapon, the three officers fired multiple times, killing the man, Hover said.

But Wilson says he questions that version of events, based on what he witnessed himself.

He was near Willard's house, he says, when he heard the first shot, which preceded all the others by two minutes.

It's that first shot that, Wilson believes, that contradicts what police are saying about the events leading up to Willard's death.

"I think that the neighbors called (and) reported a burglary because he was making noise and the cops came and they thought the same - he was making noise, so they shot him in the back yard," Wilson says.

After he heard the first shot, Wilson said he put on his shoes and ran to the corner by Willard's house, where he saw the rest of the shooting, which started about two minutes atfer the first shot, he says.

He said there were no flashing lights or sirens, and he didn't realize there were any police in the area until he heard one warning from police to drop a gun - not the repeated warnings they claim to have given. Then the shooting started, he says.

"I did not know they were cops until I got around the corner," he says. "There were no lights or sirens. When I got to the corner, they kicked down the door and they shot him down."

"I got right about here and I'd seen them firing into the doorway right there - just firing, emptying (their clips) - both cops," Wilson says.

But it's his theory of that earlier first shot, that is fueling speculation Willard was first shot by police in the backyard.

How else, asks Wilson and Willard's roommates, do you explain blood that was found on the back door and back doorknob?

Yet police stand by their version of events, which is that the only shots fired were at Willard as he stood at the front door - after he refused to put down a gun.

Investigators also say a shotgun was found near the man's body.

And Wilson admits he doesn't know for sure where the first shot came from.

"He (Willard) was scared, under the influence (of alcohol), and he may have went inside and got protection - I don't know. We may never know. But first and foremost I think he was shot in his back yard, and I think it was wrong and people need to know that," Wilson says.

At first, Wilson was reluctant to talk with KOMO News because what he told us, he admits, is more complete than what he told police when the first interviewed him.

But when he started hearing what the police were reporting - he decided to talk.

In an e-mail statement, a sheriff's spokesperson says Wilson's theory is all wrong - but the spokesman declined to give further details about what the police believed happened that night.

The incident remains under investigation by the Snohomish County Multiple Agency Response Team, a specialized organization of detectives from law enforcement agencies called in to investigate officer-involved shootings.

All three Everett police officers involved in the shooting were placed on paid administrative leave, which is standard procedure while the incident is investigated by an outside agency.

One of the officers is a 24-year-old woman who has been with the department for 2 1/2 years. The second officer is a 29-year-old man who has been with the department for 1 1/2 years. The third officer is a 33-year-old man who has been with the department for two years.