Moses Lake officer involved shooting ruled justified

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EPHRATA - The Prosecutor's Office has determined the Dec. 30 officer involved fatal shooting in Moses Lake was justified.

Grant County Prosecutor Angus Lee determined the evidence in the case "clearly establishes self-defense and good faith" by Moses Lake Police Officer Aaron Hintz, who shot and killed James Eshelman, 54, on the night of Dec. 30 at a Moses Lake home.

"In this case, all evidence shows that the officer was making a lawful contract when he was placed in a clear and present danger of serious and possibly deadly assault," Lee wrote in his review. "He, like all of us, had a right to take reasonable steps to defend himself and his fellow officer."

According to the review, Eshelman was reportedly intoxicated and had been smoking marijuana the day of the shooting. Later that night, he was seen yelling at neighbors, and soon after a neighbor called 911 when Eshelman was yelling and throwing garbage cans in the street.

Hintz arrived on the scene about four minutes later and waited for backup before contacting Eshelman, due to the fact Eshelman was known to be dangerous, the police reports said. The officers briefly discussed the situation before attempting to make contact when one officer went to the back of the home to ensure Eshelman did not flee. The remaining three officers, including Hintz, approached the front door.

"It is important to note the area around the front door was an incredibly confined space with a wall directly behind where a person knocking on the front door would stand, and only five feet away from the door," Lee wrote, noting the officers had limited ability to move out of harm's way once they entered the carport to approach the front door.

Eshelman reportedly thrust a large knife up against the window several feet behind the front door, and officers instructed him to put the knife away and come out the front door. In a matter of seconds, Eshelman ran through the house, flung open the door where Hintz and another officer were standing, still with the knife in his hand. He reportedly swung the knife in the direction of the officers when he opened the door.

One officer noted the knife was about 18 inches away from Hintz.

The officers continued to yell for Eshelman to drop the knife.

"At that moment, Officer Hintz was in great danger of great bodily harm or death," Lee wrote. "He had no room to maneuver in his current location. Hintz clearly had no reasonable alternative but to defend his own life, and possibly that of his fellow officer, by deploying his sidearm at the aggressing Eshelman."

Lee determined the use of a taser would have been ineffective in the situation.

An autopsy showed the first two rounds fired by Hintz went through Eshelman's hand and into his chest and forensic evidence along with bullet trajectories show Eshelman's arm was elevated and extended toward Hintz and Eshelman was in a forward leaning position, according to Lee.

"The officer's actions appear to be justifiable and reasonable self-defense in the face of an aggressive and emotional adult male who appeared to be under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol while armed with a deadly weapon," Lee wrote.

A dash camera in one of the officer's patrol cars was pointed at Eshelman's home and captured much of the event and provided a concrete timeline of the events, Lee wrote.

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