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Originally published Friday, June 12, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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DUI suspect fatally shot by police in Everett

As investigators try to piece together the events that led to the fatal shooting of a man Wednesday night as he tried to drive away from an Everett restaurant, one witness believes a police officer overreacted by opening fire.

Seattle Times staff reporters

As investigators try to piece together the events that led to the fatal shooting of a man Wednesday night as he tried to drive away from an Everett restaurant, one witness believes a police officer overreacted by opening fire.

"The [man] was boxed in, and he had nowhere else to go. There were cars in front of him; cars behind him," said Everett resident Elizabeth Thornes, who was a few feet from the man's car when he was shot in a parking lot outside the Chuckwagon Inn restaurant in the 6700 block of Evergreen Way.

"But the cop shot way too hastily," she said. "I just think it was a senseless death. The guy didn't need to die."

Investigators are trying to piece together the final sequence of events during the confrontation between the apparent drunken driver and Everett police officers who were summoned to the restaurant by concerned patrons.

The man, described by authorities only as in his mid-50s, was shot as he tried to drive off in a white Corvette outside the Chuckwagon Inn about 11:30 p.m., Snohomish County sheriff's spokeswoman Rebecca Hover said.

"We're still trying to figure out how this all played out," Hover said Thursday.

Earlier, Thornes, 40, had been with friends inside the restaurant and had noticed the man appeared too drunk to drive. "I had asked him to take his keys to the bartender, and tried to convince him not to drive," she recounted late Thursday.

"I just kind of pleaded with him," she said. Her appeal was rebuffed.

Authorities say several callers phoned 911 to report that the man was drunk and trying to leave the restaurant's parking lot in his car. When police arrived at the scene, they "tried to contact the DUI suspect," and used a Taser to stop him, Hover said.

"They tried to stop him, but he continued to drive away," Hover said. "He was Tasered by one of the officers while he was in the Corvette, but that didn't stop him, either."

After that, details so far provided by authorities are sketchy. They say the man drove into a chain-link fence, which buckled and fell.

Thornes said she was standing in the parking lot, a few feet from the victim's car, and was struck from behind by the chain-link fence as it buckled. She said she was not injured.

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About the same time, one of the officers fired shots, Hover said. Officers tried to revive the man, but he died at the scene, Hover said. Investigators are still trying to determine how many shots were fired.

The rear window of the Corvette was shattered.

Thornes, who says she has nurse's training, also performed CPR on the man until a medic unit arrived. "He was bleeding profusely from the back of his head," she said.

She thinks the man's car may have lunged when he was Tased. "I think his foot hit the accelerator due to the fact that he was being Tased," she said.

Thornes said she didn't believe the officer who fired was in any danger.

The Snohomish County Medical Examiner's Office performed an autopsy Thursday, but office deputy director, Carolyn Sanden, said that no information was being released because positive identification had not been made and the next-of-kin had not been notified.

She also declined to elaborate on the cause and manner of death.

Authorities believe he lived in Snohomish County, Hover said, although they have yet to confirm his last known address.

A manager at the Chuckwagon Inn said the man was not a regular patron and knew little about him.

The officer who fired the fatal shots is 41 and has been with the Everett Police Department for 11 years, Hover said. He has been placed on administrative leave while the shooting is investigated, which is standard procedure. Investigators from the Snohomish County Multiple Agency Response Team now assigned to review the case are trying to determine "the final moments of the event," Hover said.

The task force, which is charged with fact-finding, will not determine whether the shooting was justified, Hover said. That decision will be left to the Snohomish County Prosecutor's Office, which will review the task force's findings. There is no timeline for the investigation, Hover said.

The Everett Police Department, meanwhile, has the authority to conduct its own investigation into whether department firearm policies were followed by the officer, but Everett Police spokesman Sgt. Robert Goetz said any internal department investigation will occur only after the task force completes its probe. "Whether or not policy and procedure is followed is something we'll look into at the appropriate time," Goetz said.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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