Deputy’s use of deadly force found lawful

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Independent investigations by the Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office, the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department and the Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office regarding the shooting death of William Langfitt, IV have been completed.

Pierce County Medical Examiner Dr. Thomas Clark determined that Langfitt, 28, died from multiple gunshot wounds. The shots were fired by Pierce County Sheriff’s Deputy Colby Edwards.

Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist reviewed the investigations and concluded that Deputy Edwards acted lawfully and determined this was a justifiable homicide as defined by RCW 9A.16.030.

“Mr. Langfitt was clearly in need of mental health treatment,” said Lindquist. “This justified shooting highlights the need to provide mental health services before the issues and conduct escalate.”

On the night of March 16, Pierce County deputies were called to the area of 252nd Street East and Mountain Highway in Pierce County regarding a person, later identified as William Langfitt, reportedly having a “mental breakdown.” The 911 caller, identified as Naomi Powers, said Langfitt had been armed with a knife but she had taken it away from him.

While deputies were en route, the 911 operator could hear Powers screaming and saying, “Let go of me,” and, “Stop it.” This information was relayed to the responding deputies. Powers then told the 911 operator that Langfitt was in the roadway trying to jump into passing vehicles.

Deputy Colby Edwards arrived in the area and saw Langfitt at the driver’s side of a white SUV just west of Mountain Highway on 252nd Street East. Langfitt was pounding on the driver’s side window of the SUV. Edwards began turning onto 252nd from Mountain Highway when Langfitt immediately charged toward Edwards’ marked patrol vehicle, which had its emergency lights activated.

Edwards exited his vehicle in the middle of the intersection and began giving Langfitt verbal commands to stop his aggressive actions. Langfitt continued to charge at Edwards with an unknown object in his right hand. Langfitt had what Edwards described as a “1,000-yard stare” in his eyes.

Edwards was forced to back away from his driver’s door and draw his firearm as he continued to back pedal toward the rear of his vehicle for safety and distance due to Langfitt’s irrational, erratic, and aggressive behavior directed at Edwards.

As Langfitt was passing the open driver’s door of the deputy’s patrol vehicle, Langfitt suddenly turned and entered the still running vehicle. Edwards immediately feared that he and the community would be in extreme danger if Langfitt took control of the vehicle or gained access to Edwards’ loaded patrol rifle inside the vehicle.

Edwards made the decision to stop Langfitt’s actions and fired several rounds into the vehicle at Langfitt, killing him.

The follow up investigation revealed that Langfitt had recently begun experiencing mental health issues. He was acting paranoid, was hallucinating, and having fits of extreme rage.

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