TACOMA, WA – Independent and concurrent investigations by the Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office, Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office and Tacoma Police Department regarding the shooting death of Stephen Wyman Cunningham, 48, have been completed. Cunningham died from gunshot wounds inflicted by Tacoma Police Officer Jimmy Welsh.
Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist concluded the death was justifiable homicide under state law.
On May 10, 2015, Officers Welsh and Angela Hayes responded to a noise complaint at a home on South Proctor in Tacoma. They heard loud music and multiple voices coming from inside the home. The officers knocked on the front door, announced themselves as police officers, and stood in front of a window so the occupants could see they were the police. Through the window, they saw Cunningham look at them and then walk towards a sliding glass door at the rear of the house. He then turned around and moved quickly towards a coffee table. The officers saw him pick up a handgun, so they retreated and announced “man with a gun” over the radio.
A short time later, Cunningham exited the house, still armed with the gun. Officer Welsh identified himself as a police officer and ordered Cunningham to drop the gun. Cunningham pointed the gun at Officer Welsh. Fearing for his life, Officer Welsh fired multiple rounds at Cunningham, striking him several times. Cunningham died at the scene.
“This is another example of the dangers law enforcement officers face,” said Prosecutor Mark Lindquist. “Even a routine call can turn deadly.”
According to Medical Examiner Dr. Thomas Clark, Cunningham died from a gunshot wound to his chest. Dr. Clark also determined Cunningham had a blood alcohol level of .15, nearly twice the legal limit, at the time of his death.
Communications and Public Information Coordinator
Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office