Cowlitz, Co – (Lower Columbia Major Crimes Team)
On October 2nd, 2020 the Lower Columbia Major Crimes Team (LCMCT) was activated to investigate an officer involved shooting incident involving the Longview Police Department. The LCMCT is comprised of investigators from Cowlitz County law enforcement agencies and serves as an Independent Investigation Team for the region, following the guidelines of Washington Administrative Code 139-12.
Detectives from the Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office and the Kelso Police Department were assigned to this investigation. The Longview Police Department is excluded from the investigation per investigative guidelines. Detective Lorenzo Gladson of the Sheriff’s Office was assigned as lead investigator. The team structure also includes citizen representatives who are Longview residents. A detective has been assigned as a family liaison for the subject’s family.
While the investigation is ongoing, LCMCT investigators have conducted interviews of the involved officers, associates that had been with the subject, and more than fifteen citizen witnesses who were in the area at the time of this incident. Detectives have also collected evidence from the scene as well as surveillance videos from businesses in the area. Based on witness interviews, evidence, dispatch records, and surveillance video, detectives have been able to establish the information contained in this press release.
At about 1326 hours of October 2nd, 2020 Detective Jordan Sanders and Detective Matt Hartley of the Longview Police Street Crimes Unit located Justin Lee Tofte in the 500 block of Oregon Way. Tofte had a confirmed warrant for his arrest and the detectives had received information that Tofte had recently obtained a firearm. Detectives Sanders and Hartley were operating a marked patrol vehicle with emergency lights activated and were wearing tactical vest carriers which were clearly marked “POLICE.” Longview Police Sergeant John Reeves was nearby in an unmarked vehicle to assist.
Upon contacting Tofte, Detectives Sanders and Hartley identified themselves as police and ordered Tofte to stop and that he was under arrest. Tofte fled on foot, south on Oregon Way, then turned east as he ran past the Woodworkers Local 536 building. Witnesses inside this building heard officers ordering Tofte to stop and witnessed Tofte and the detectives running past the building. Sergeant Reeves notified dispatch at 13:26:33 hours that police were in a foot pursuit.
Detective Sanders noted Tofte was reaching into his sweatshirt pocket as he ran. Video evidence confirms this and investigators noted it appeared an object in Tofte’s sweatshirt pocket was weighing his sweatshirt down.
Tofte turned north and ran through the alley between Oregon Way and 14th Avenue. The detectives gave repeated commands to Tofte to stop but he continued to flee. At this time, Detective Sanders deployed a TASER, which had a limited effect. Tofte went to the ground briefly, then got to his feet and continued running north through the alley. Tofte looked over his shoulder back at the detectives while he ran through the alley. As he passed dumpsters in the alley, Tofte fell down and a semiautomatic pistol slid away from his person in the alley.
Detective Sanders observed the pistol and ordered Tofte to put his hands behind his back. Tofte immediately dove for the pistol and picked it up from the ground. Detective Sanders stated he was in fear for his life and feared for Detective Hartley as well. Detective Sanders fired three shots, with one hitting Tofte in the right axilla area. The other two shots struck unoccupied vehicles in an adjacent car dealership lot.
After being shot, Tofte continued to flee northbound on foot through the alley. At 13:26:56, Detective Sanders radioed, “14th and Cypress, we need aid our way” and at 13:27:04 radioed, “Shots fired.” Tofte ran to Cypress Street and turned east, then ran toward 14th Avenue. At 13:27:18 Detective Sanders radioed to Sergeant Reeves, “Right there sarge, he’s got a gun in his hand still.” At 13:27:34 Sergeant Reeves requested emergency medical services.
Detectives Sanders and Hartley and Sergeant Reeves located Tofte near 557 14th Avenue. Tofte was reportedly holding the pistol and made suicidal statements. Witnesses and the involved officers reported hearing Tofte make these comments.
The involved officers gave Tofte commands to put the pistol down. Once Tofte was taken into custody, the officers immediately rendered first aid and applied a chest seal to the gunshot wound. At 13:28:30 Sergeant Reeves radioed that the subject was detained. At 13:28:39 Sergeant Reeves radioed for emergency medical services to come to the scene for a chest wound to the suspect.
Emergency Medical Services was toned out at 13:28:50 hours and arrived on scene at 13:31:51 – approximately four minutes after shots were fired. Medics rendered first aid and transported Tofte to St John Medical Center at 13:51:13, where he later succumbed to his injury.
During the processing of the scene, LCMCT investigators located a loaded pistol magazine near the sidewalk on Oregon Way where the foot pursuit started. This magazine matched the loaded magazine found with Tofte’s .380 caliber Smith and Wesson semiautomatic pistol. The pistol did have a round chambered. LCMCT investigators also located a box of ammunition of the same caliber in the alley.
Video evidence of this incident will be released with this press release. This evidence was captured by privately owned surveillance cameras, which capture different portions of the incident. The Longview Police Department does not have body-worn cameras or vehicle-based cameras. The Longview Police Department has placed Detective Jordan Sanders on Critical Incident Leave per their department policies and procedures.
The Lower Columbia Major Crimes Team has released video related to this investigation which can be viewed at https://youtu.be/mjYjFvd6poU
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