Prosecutor finds deputy’s use of deadly force lawful

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Independent and concurrent 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 Matthew Wells have been completed. Wells, 40, died from multiple gunshot wounds inflicted by Pierce County Sheriff’s Deputy Robert LaTour as Wells attacked Deputy LaTour while armed with a butcher knife.

Pierce County Medical Examiner Doctor Thomas Clark determined that Wells died from multiple gunshot wounds and had both methamphetamine and alprazolam in his system at the time of his death.

Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist concluded the shooting was lawful.

“The deputy acted to protect himself, his fellow deputies, and family members of Mr. Wells who were in the home at the time,” said Lindquist.

On Sept. 21, 2017, South Sound 911 received a call from a residence on 78th Street Court East regarding a suicide attempt. The individual attempting suicide was identified by the caller as Matthew Wells. The caller reported that Wells was high on meth and armed with a butcher’s knife, which he had been holding to his neck. Multiple units from the Pierce County Sherriff’s Department responded to the call due to there being a weapon involved.

While enroute, deputies were told Wells was apparently hearing voices and had begun cutting himself on his wrists. The caller added that Wells had blood all over himself and was in his bedroom.

Deputy Oetting arrived and made contact with the man who called 911. Deputy Crawford arrived shortly thereafter, and the deputies entered the residence. They attempted to talk with Wells through the closed bedroom door. Oetting attempted to convince Wells to put the knife down and come out of his bedroom, but Wells refused. LaTour arrived and went inside to help Oetting and Crawford.

The deputies were able to see Wells in his bedroom through a hole in the door, which had been damaged before the incident. Continued efforts were made by the deputies to get Wells to put the knife down and exit his room. Sounds from the bedroom led the deputies to believe Wells may be climbing out a window, so Crawford went outside to stop Wells.

Finally, Wells opened the bedroom door still armed with the knife. He would not comply with the deputies’ continuing commands to drop the knife. Instead, Wells was moving quickly back and forth while making “grunting” noises. Wells suddenly came out of the bedroom moving quickly in the direction of LaTour while still armed with the knife, at which point he was shot by LaTour. LaTour said he shot Wells in defense of himself as well as Wells’ parents who were in the room behind him. Oetting, who was in the adjoining bedroom doorway, retreated further into the bedroom fearing Wells would turn into the room and attack him. Medical aid was brought in and they performed CPR, but Wells died of his injuries.

Clark performed an autopsy and determined Wells had four gunshot wounds that proved to be fatal. Clark also noted self-inflicted sharp force injuries to both forearms and his neck, none of which had significant potential to be fatal. The toxicology report documented a quantity of both methamphetamine and alprazolam in Wells’ system as well.

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