Friday, a Marion County Grand Jury unanimously found that Keizer Police Department Officer Tyler Wampler was justified in his use of deadly force on Ryan Chapman, 26, on March 14, 2018.
The Grand Jury convened today to hear testimony from 13 witnesses, including officers from the Keizer Police Department, Salem Police Department, and the Oregon State Police, who led the investigation. The Grand Jury also heard from multiple civilian witnesses and reviewed multiple video and audio records from both civilian and police sources, as well as photographs, scene diagrams, dispatch recordings, firearms, and autopsy conclusions.
The following is a factual summary of evidence found by the Grand Jury:
Since early 2018, numerous serial armed robberies occurred at different business establishments throughout the local Salem and Keizer area. The Salem Police Department had investigated over twelve of these incidents, and provided local law enforcement with potential suspect identifiers in an effort to locate a suspect. Some of these identifiers included a description of the suspect (white male, tall, heavier suspect, who walked with a distinct gait); his clothing (dark pants and shoes, a black and grey jacket, and that he would cover his face); and that a firearm was used. Furthermore, local law enforcement was told that the suspect was becoming increasingly brazen with his firearm, which was described as a small, silver handgun.
Local police departments, including the Keizer Police Department (who had also investigated a prior robbery from the same suspect) regularly provided as much of this information as possible during their pre-patrol briefings.
On Wednesday, March 14, 2018, shortly before 6pm, Ryan Chapman entered Pizza Hut located at 4492 River Road N, Keizer, Marion County, Oregon. He pulled out a small, silver handgun and demanded the cash from the registers. He was wearing a black and grey coat, had his face covered, and pushed the gun into the ribs of one of the employees demanding that he empty the cash register. Chapman placed the cash into a black backpack and left the store on foot.
Law enforcement received the 911 call, which was broadcast over dispatch at 5:58pm. A witness followed Chapman as he fled the Pizza Hut and saw Chapman leave in a maroon-colored Hyundai, all of which was reported to 911. The witness then followed Chapman until he saw law enforcement follow Chapman's vehicle. Chapman's vehicle did not have license plates.
Several Keizer police units quickly located and started their pursuit in standard, marked patrol vehicles with lights and sirens. Officer Carrie Anderson, a 23-year veteran of the Keizer Police Department; Sergeant Greg Barber, a 24-year veteran of the Keizer Police Department; Officer Daniel Carroll, a 12-year veteran of the Keizer Police Department; and Tyler Wampler, a 26-year veteran of the Keizer Police Department all pursued Chapman's vehicle.
Officers described smoke coming off the wheels Chapman's tires during the pursuit.
Ryan Chapman continued to attempt to elude law enforcement, winding through residential Keizer for several miles before crashing in to a civilian vehicle at the intersection of Springtime Court NE and Chemawa road NE. Ryan Chapman immediately fled on foot up Springtime Court away from the crash. Officer Wampler grabbed his AR15 department-issued rifle and pursued on foot. The civilian did not require immediate medical attention.
Officers Wampler and Anderson followed Ryan Chapman as he ran towards the cul-de-sac end of Springtime Court. Officer Anderson recognized that Chapman's clothing and personal characteristics matched the suspect from the numerous area robberies. Officer Wampler told Chapman "Stop, or you will be shot!" and "Get on the ground," knowing that Chapman had used a gun during the robbery. Chapman looked back twice, but ignored the officer's commands.
Both officers testified that the Springtime Court neighborhood contained numerous homes with multiple civilians nearby. More concerning, they saw residents watching the unfolding activity.
Ryan Chapman positioned himself between two vehicles in the driveway of 1741 Springtime Court NE, and turned to face the pursuing officers. Both officers gave multiple commands to "show me your hands!" Ryan Chapman raised one hand but would not show the other. Instead, Chapman yelled back "I have a gun," at which point Officer Wampler saw that Defendant was holding a silver handgun. Officer Wampler yelled multiple times, "drop the gun!" Chapman did not do so. After being ordered to drop the gun, Officer Wampler took one shot, hitting Ryan Chapman. Ryan Chapman immediately fell to the ground between the vehicles.
Despite being on the ground, the gun remained in Chapman's hand. Officers continued to give numerous commands to drop the firearm. This situation caused the officers great concern for their safety, as well as the local public's, because they were unable to determine whether Ryan Chapman was deceased or "playing dead" in an attempt to lure law enforcement closer. Therefore, Keizer Police Sergeant Greg Barber ordered the use of a "less-than-lethal" round to determine if Ryan Chapman was deceased. This rubber-like baton round is specifically designed to cause pain, but not be deadly.
By this time, multiple other officers had responded to the scene. Salem Police Officer Eric Hernandez, a 10-year veteran with the Salem Police Department, was ordered to shoot Ryan Chapman with the less-than-lethal round. He hit Chapman's arm, and the gun fell from Chapman's hand. Chapman gave no pain response, which suggested to law enforcement that it was safer to approach. Officers did so, rendered the scene safe, and requested immediate medical aid for Chapman.
Ryan Chapman was pronounced dead at the scene, having sustained a single gunshot wound to the head.
At the time of his death, Ryan Chapman was wearing black pants and shoes, a black and grey jacket, and had a silver handgun. The .22 handgun had a bullet in the chamber, and was later determined operable. At the scene, law enforcement also recovered Ryan Chapman's backpack and searched it pursuant to a search warrant signed by Marion County Circuit Court Judge Claudia Burton. Five hundred and forty one dollars in cash as located, which was the same amount taken from the Pizza Hut.
As is common practice in these types of cases, the investigation was conducted by the Oregon State Police.
An autopsy was conducted on Ryan Chapman by Deputy Medical Examiner Dr. Clifford Nelson on March 16, 2018. Chapman had a single gunshot wound to the head. The cause of death was a gunshot wound. Ryan Chapman was 6-feet, 4 inches tall and weighed 284 pounds, which matched the general characteristics of the suspect in the prior robberies. Toxicology results revealed that Chapman had methamphetamine, opiates, and THC in his system.
The Grand Jury applied the facts of this case to the legal principles dictating circumstances when deadly physical force can be used. Specifically, the Grand Jury found that the officers reasonably believed the following:
Ryan Chapman had committed and attempted to commit felonies involving the use or threatened use of physical force against a person;
Deadly physical force was necessary to defend a peace officer or another person from the use or threatened imminent use of deadly physical force;
Ryan Chapman had committed felonies or attempted to commit felonies and under the totality of the circumstances existing at the time and place, the use of such force was justified, and
The officers' life or personal safety was endangered in the particular circumstances involved.
The Grand Jury's decision required reviewing all the facts and evidence available and applying them to the legal principles above. The Grand Jury concluded that the actions of Tyler Wampler were justified and lawful.
District Attorney Walt Beglau stated, "We thank the Grand Jury for their careful review of these very difficult circumstances. We further commend the investigative team. They continue to fulfill the important requirements of the Marion County Use of Force protocol, with skill, integrity, and transparency. To all our Law Enforcement in Marion County, and in particular, those officers who risked their lives on that day: We are grateful that you continue to protect and serve."