A man accused of hitting a Washington State Patrol trooper with his truck, fatally wounding him Tuesday, is being held in the Lewis County Jail on $5 million bail pending formal charges.
A Washington State Patrol report released Wednesday requests felony charges of assault, hit and run resulting in a death and felony eluding for William D. Thompson, 39, of Olympia, who is accused of killing trooper Justin Schaffer, 28, Tuesday in Chehalis.
The report also alleges that the suspect allegedly intentionally drove in the direction of the trooper who died and a second trooper, who was hit by debris from his patrol car after it was struck.
On Tuesday, Lewis County Sheriff Rob Snaza said Thompson faces a charge of vehicular homicide.
According to the report, deputies with the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office located Thompson’s vehicle, a Ford F-150 truck, on Tuesday at approximately 2:40 p.m. He was accused in a shoplifting incident a day earlier in which he allegedly brandished a taser at a store clerk.
Thompson also allegedly attempted to hit the store clerk with his vehicle during the incident on Monday, according to the report.
On Tuesday, deputies attempted to stop Thompson’s vehicle in Thurston County, but according to the report, he failed to stop and accelerated away, which gave way to the pursuit south on Interstate 5 into Lewis County.
Thompson was reportedly driving more than 100 miles per hour, the report states, using all lanes and the shoulder of the freeway in an attempt to evade the deputies.
In an effort to stop the pursuit, deputies requested assistance from the Washington State Patrol to deploy spike strips.
Four members of the Washington State Patrol, including Schaffer, were in the area deploying spike strips.
Due to the heavy police presence on I-5, traffic began to slow and Thompson allegedly attempted to avoid it by entering the paved right shoulder of the freeway at a speed of about 90 miles per hour.
When Thompson approached Schaffer’s location at about milepost 79, near the Chamber Way overpass, Schaffer was out of his car deploying the spike strips. According to a trooper who witnessed the incident, Thompson veered right, directly at Schaffer, and struck him.
Another trooper who was half a mile away from Schaffer’s location attempted to deploy spike strips, too. According to the report, the trooper was standing outside of his car on the right shoulder of I-5 when Thompson again allegedly drove straight toward him and his car.
Thompson collided with the patrol car and the trooper was hit by debris, and according to the report, had the trooper not been wearing a ballistic vest, the debris could have caused serious bodily injuries or possibly mortally wounded him.
Thompson’s truck tire went flat because of the spike strips, according to the report, and he continued for another 2 miles at speeds of 80 to 90 miles per hour until he attempted to get off the freeway on exit 77.
He lost control of the vehicle and skid through the intersection at the top of the offramp. The vehicle crashed into the guard rail and traffic light post and the vehicle was disabled, according to the report
Thompson allegedly failed to obey commands to exit the vehicle. After a standoff lasting approximately an hour and a half and several rounds of smoke canisters being fired into the vehicle, Thompson agreed to exit the vehicle and was taken into custody.
After Thompson was booked into Lewis County Jail, a drug recognition expert from Clark County reported several indicators that Thompson was under the influence of narcotics and/or intoxicants.
Thompson was scheduled to make his preliminary appearance in Lewis County Superior Court Wednesday afternoon, but formal charges have not yet been filed.
A Western State Hospital review is scheduled for next month.
See the full probable cause statement below:
Washington State Patrol Trooper Dies After Being Hit By Vehicle in Chehalis; Identified as Adna Graduate, Son of Chehalis Police Chief
Line of Duty: Trooper Justin R. Schaffer Was Attempting to Deploy Spike Strips to Stop a Fleeing Motorist When He Was Struck by the Suspect’s Vehicle
By Jackson Gardner/ email@example.com
Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste announced the agency’s 30th line-of-duty death since its inception — Justin R. Schaffer, 28, badge No. 646 — Tuesday night at a press conference.
He is the son of Chehalis Police Chief Glenn Schaffer. He is survived by wife Sandra, brother Brandon and his parents, Glenn and Sheila.
“With a very heavy heart, I announce to the citizens of the great state of Washington, we lost a great trooper today,” Batiste said at a press conference. “Justin Schaffer has been with the agency for seven years, he’s done a lot of great things for the agency. He was a K-9 officer, his dog Frankie, we are going to take very good care of, a husband, a son of a police chief in this community and a wonderful mother.”
According to Batiste, Schaffer was out of his patrol car deploying spike strips in an attempt to end the pursuit of a robbery suspect being chased on southbound Interstate 5 near mile marker 79 in Chehalis when he was hit by the suspect’s vehicle.
“The trooper was attempting to end the pursuit by deploying spike strips and we are still investigating the circumstances as to why, but it led to the trooper being struck by the suspect vehicle,” Batiste said.
The suspect driving the vehicle that killed Schaffer was identified by Lewis County Sheriff Rob Snaza as William D. Thompson, 39, of Olympia.
Currently, Thompson faces a charge of vehicular homicide, Snaza said. He was booked Tuesday afternoon into the Lewis County Jail.
“(Thompson) was wanted out of Thurston County and another county further north,” Snaza said.
According to Snaza, the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office had identified Thompson, had probable cause for his arrest and initiated the pursuit that continued south into Lewis County.
After Schaffer was struck, the pursuit continued for approximately three more miles where Thompson attempted to exit on an offramp near mile marker 76 and crashed into a light pole, Snaza said.
A standoff between Thompson and law enforcement ensued, and after several phone calls and a tear gas being deployed into the vehicle, law enforcement was able to get Thompson to exit the vehicle and be detained peacefully, Snaza said.
“This investigation is ongoing and will be ongoing for several months,” he said.
Schaffer is an Adna High School graduate, who served seven years with the WSP, most recently with K9 Partner Frankie.
A memorial service for Schaffer is pending due to coronavirus restrictions, but the WSP is working with the family and considering options of how to honor Schaffer appropriately, according to a release.
“My heart is broken for the family and our prayers go out to them,” Snaza said.
Other members of the community spoke about Schaffer’s death this week, including Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia.
“This is unbelievably sad,” Braun wrote in a statement. “Trooper Justin Schaffer gave his life to keep the people of our state safe, attempting to end a pursuit of a suspected robber wanted in two counties. … While so many are rightfully concerned at this time about an illness they can’t see, our law enforcement officers and other first responders are still putting their lives on the line against the dangers that are more familiar to us. They deserve our greatest respect.”
Gov. Jay Inslee also released a statement Tuesday night.
"Trudi and I send our deepest condolences to the friends, family and colleagues of Justin Schaffer who died in the line of duty today. The Schaffer family, including Justin's father Glenn who is the police chief in Chehalis, has made tremendous sacrifices for our state. I am grateful for the difficult and crucial work that law enforcement does every day to protect us and keep our communities safe. Justin was a young man who served and protected our state with honor for the past seven years. I know all Washingtonians join us in mourning this tragic loss."