After over a year of delays, William Thompson, the Olympia man accused of intentionally hitting and killing a local Washington State Patrol (WSP) trooper during a chase down Interstate 5 last year, has a trial date: Nov. 1, 2021.
The November jury trial date was set during a Feb. 18 hearing. Lewis County Superior Court purposefully pushed the date out to allow time for Thompson’s defense counsel to prepare for a jury trial.
“Basically what we’re waiting for is for the defense to prepare an expert if they call one,” said Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead, adding that the case is in a “holding pattern” until then. A pre-trial review hearing, called an omnibus, is scheduled for April 29 so the court can get an update on the defense’s progress.
Thompson pleaded not guilty to 13 charges — including first-degree aggravated murder — for hitting and killing trooper Justin Schaffer, 28, of Chehalis, with his vehicle on March 24, 2021, while the officer was laying spike strips down on I-5 in an effort to end a pursuit.
The chase began when officers identified Thompson as a suspect in a shoplifting incident from the day before.
A competency assessment completed in early April 2020 found Thompson not competent to stand trial, and the case was put on hold while Thompson received treatment. The case resumed after a Washington State Department of Health review released in October found Thompson competent to stand trial. He was transferred from a treatment facility to the Lewis County Jail on March 24 and is currently being held on $5 million restricted bail.
If the defense is ready with their expert in time for the Nov. 1 trial date, the jury trial can commence as scheduled; but if they need more time, the trial date could be pushed out further.
The Lewis County courts system is currently working its way through hundreds of cases that backlogged during the county’s year-long suspension of jury trials due to COVID-19 restrictions. Jury trials resumed beginning March 1, and the Lewis County Prosecutor’s Office is prioritizing in-custody cases and cases with victims, with plans to handle the rest of the backlog from there.