Bend police officer cleared in fatal shooting

Erick Supplee was “lawful and justified,” DA said

By Shelby R. King / The Bulletin

Published Jan 16, 2014 at 12:01AM / Updated Jan 16, 2014 at 06:09AM

A six-week investigation by Deschutes County District Attorney Patrick Flaherty has concluded Bend Police Officer Erick Supplee was justified when he fatally shot a Bend burglary suspect in November 2013.

Flaherty and Police Chief Jeff Sale on Wednesday held a press conference to release additional details about the incident, including the results of a toxicology report conducted on the suspect and information about items found at the scene.

“This was a tragic and sad event for the family and friends of Tyler Keinonen and for the officers and first responders,” Flaherty said. “This tragic event is yet another example of the destructive blight that is methamphetamine in our community.

“We determined the shooting was justified because Officer Supplee clearly had a reasonable belief that he was going to be shot and killed,” Flaherty said.

Keinonen, 31, died of a single gunshot wound to the chest after disobeying repeated commands from three officers responding to reports of a possible burglary at a home on Northeast Jackdaw Drive on Nov. 22, according to the death investigation report released Wednesday.

The report states Keinonen was at the home to collect a drug debt.

“A laboratory analysis of his blood showed that he was heavily under the influence of methamphetamine at the time of his death and confirmed witness statements that he had also consumed Oxycodone,” according to the DA’s report. “His drug use may explain his failure to respond to the officers’ commands.”

Law enforcement had served a search warrant at the same home earlier that day, making three arrests and confiscating stolen property, illegal firearms and controlled substances, according to the DA’s report. They also arrested three suspects and were looking for Keinonen as a fourth suspect, according to the report.

Officers responding to the second call spoke with the three people who were known residents of the Jackdaw Drive home, who confirmed only one woman had permission to be at the residence. The report states officers responding to the possible burglary report recognized a vehicle parked in front of the home as being associated with Keinonen, who was wanted in connection with the earlier warrant.

Bend Police officers Victor Umnitz and Justin Lovrein knocked on the front door and identified themselves as officers while Supplee and his K-9, Zlatan, went to the back of the home, according to the report. Umnitz told Supplee he saw a man and woman moving inside the home and advised Supplee it appeared the male was heading toward the back of the house.

“Immediately, I’m thinking the guy is not answering the door, he’s walking towards the back of the house. Normal citizen — the police knock on the front door of your house and a normal citizen will answer the front door of the house,” Supplee said in an interview following the shooting. “So I thought what’s he walking towards the back of that house for? I know that a female is in there. Is he going back to get a weapon?”

Supplee reported seeing Keinonen in the backyard through gaps in the gate. He appeared to be “holding a smartphone in one hand and gripping what (Supplee) described as a ‘bulge’ in the other hand, and that his hands were close together.”

This position caused Supplee to believe Keinonen was pointing a gun at him. Supplee told the approaching person to show his hands, but got no response.

Instead of obeying Supplee’s orders, Keinonen instead flung the gate outward toward Supplee and “‘stayed in that same exact position’ with the illuminated cell phone in one hand and what Officer Supplee believed to be a gun in the other hand, pointed directly toward him,” the report states.

“I threw up my arm because I thought the guy was going to kill me, thought he was going to shoot me,” Supplee told interviewers. “I threw my arm up in the defensive position, and I fired.”

No gun was found near Keinonen’s body, and Flaherty said investigators did not determine what the “bulge” Supplee saw might have been.

“Corporal (Troy) Wiles spoke with Officer Supplee a short time later and reported that Officer Supplee repeatedly asked him, ‘Did you find a gun?’” according to the report. “No gun was located.”

Flaherty said a Bluetooth headset was located near Keinonen’s body. Officers searched the home following the shooting and found 9mm ammunition but no 9mm gun. They did locate a “long gun,” such as a rifle, and drug paraphernalia, Flaherty said.

Supplee has been on paid administrative leave since the incident. He will return to work on his next scheduled shift, according to Sale.

— Reporter: 541-383-0376, sking@bendbulletin.com