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Officers involved in shooting return to work

Two Oak Harbor police officers who shot and killed a knife-wielding man June 16 are back on duty this week, Police Chief Steve Almon said Tuesday.

Almon said an internal investigation and the findings of a two-person firearms review board concluded that “the use of force was justified and, in all probability, the officers saved the woman’s life as well.”

Almon said the facts of the case “overwhelmingly” justified the shooting.

Officers Ron Hofkamp and Pat Horn responded to a report of screaming and yelling coming from a SE Ely Street condominium at about 10 p.m.

According to a police report, the officers went into the condo and saw a man with a knife in each hand standing over an injured woman on the floor.

The officers yelled repeatedly for the man to put the knives down. One of the officers got close enough to hit him with pepper spray.

The officers’ efforts seemed to have no effect. The officers each fired multiple shots at the man as he stabbed the woman in the head, Almon said.

“They did exactly what they had to do,” he said.

The man, 26-year-old Connie Pearsall, was killed instantly. His wife, 30-year-old Mary Ann Pearsall, was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle for treatment of three stab wounds. She was released after a week in the hospital.

Island County Coroner Robert Bishop, who conducted his own investigation, said the everything in the case is consistent with the officers’ version of events.

Pearsall died from five gunshot wounds to the torso.

Almon said a homicide detective from the Skagit County Sheriff’s Department oversaw the Oak Harbor detectives’ investigation of the case. The firearms review board, which met last Friday, was made up of a Captain Rick Wallace and a police sergeant. The officers could have chosen another police sergeant for the board, but were content with the two members.

Investigators from the Seattle police homicide unit and Oak Harbor detectives interviewed the victim at the hospital. Her statements, Almon said, were also consistent with a justified shooting.

Mary Ann Pearsall sustained three stabs wounds. That included one in the head, one in the neck, and the most serious wound to her back and into her chest cavity. Her jaw was also wired shut because of a broken jaw.

Mary Ann Pearsall has children from a previous relationship, but no children were at the home during the shooting.

Almon said investigators believe Connie Pearsall had been drinking alcohol that night, but they don’t know what prompted the potentially lethal domestic assault. Police don’t know if Pearsall had a history of domestic abuse since the couple just moved to Oak Harbor in January.

One of Mary Ann Pearsall’s relatives had stayed with the couple in the weeks before the shooting, Almon said, and everything seemed fine then.

“We know what happened,” he said, “but we don’t know why.”

Coroner Bishop said Pearsall purchased alcohol about two hours before the shooting. He said toxicology results won’t be available for another week or so.

Bishop said the couple had “a history of problems” because of Pearsall’s alcohol abuse.

According to Navy Public Affairs Officer Kim Martin, Petty Officer Third Class Pearsall had been stationed at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland before transferring to Whidbey. He was a parachute rigger with VAQ-132. His squadron deployed last week.

Mary Ann Pearsall is a civilian employee at the Navy base.

Almon said the officers were put on paid administrative leave after the shooting, but are back at work this week. Hofkamp is a 13-year veteran and Horn is a five-year veteran of the department.

Almon said the two officers and 911 dispatchers involved in the call were mandated to undergo critical incident stress counseling.

“It was a traumatic event for them and their families ...” Almon said. “They’re doing pretty good. I’m very proud of the way they’re dealing with this.”

You can reach Jessie Stensland at jstensland@whidbeynewstimes.com or call 675-6611.

Community Events, April 2014

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