The Skamania County Sheriff’s Office is providing the information contained in this media release in response to inquiries by the media and to provide factual information regarding the incident.
On the evening of 8/7/20 at approximately 7:45 pm, deputies of the Skamania County Sheriff’s Office responded to a call regarding fireworks being thrown at or near patrons of Granny’s Gedunk Ice Cream Parlor in Stevenson Washington. Deputies were advised by the owner of the store that employees had contacted her regarding an incident where fireworks had been thrown at or near customers in front of the store. The store owner told deputies the subject who was throwing the fireworks lived above the establishment. She further advised he made remarks similar to, “we don’t want you people here”. At the time of the incident, the store owner stated there was a ‘family of color” buying ice cream at the establishment. This family had departed prior to Deputies arrival.
Deputies contacted the subject who had allegedly thrown the firecrackers from the window. He admitted to deputies that he had done so and told them he had thrown the fireworks from a side window which overlooks an alley adjacent to the ice cream parlor. This window is approximately 20 yards from where the patrons were standing. It was apparent to responding deputies the subject was suffering from a mental health crisis. He was openly concerned about the current Covid-19 pandemic and was angry about the patrons of the ice cream parlor standing in front of the door to his residence and not wearing masks. He was further upset about people coming to town from the city, possibly spreading the virus. He had gone so far as to seal off his apartment with duct tape and spoke to his belief that “the COVID-19 spirits were around his building and he wanted them to leave.”
The family mentioned had departed the area prior to deputy arrival and no victim could be located. Further, there were no overt comments of a racial nature reported by any victims in this incident, nor was there any injury or property damage as stipulated in the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 9A.36.080.
RCW 9A.36.080 1(c) states “Words alone do not constitute a hate crime offense unless the context or circumstances surrounding the words indicate the words are a threat.”
The subject was not arrested or cited for this incident. A report has been filed with the Skamania County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office for review.
The Sheriff’s Office remains firmly committed to securing the safety of both residents and visitors of Skamania County and the cities of Stevenson and North Bonneville. The response and actions of the deputies in this case were consistent and appropriate when considering all the known facts.
While social media can project a narrative in any situation, we must ultimately take actions consistent with what the definition of Washington State Law allows. An incident such as this, without all facts known can attract a great deal of attention on social media. As the primary public safety provider for the cities and the county, we will continue to make fact-based decisions and act in a manner consistent with the law and our oath.
The State of Washington’s current training philosophy for law enforcement is to promote access to mental health services for those in crisis as an alternative to incarceration and criminal prosecution. We are committed to this philosophy in all cases where appropriate.