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The original item was published from 1/9/2017 1:23:53 PM to 1/10/2019 12:00:07 AM.

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Prosecuting Attorney

Posted on: January 9, 2017

[ARCHIVED] Prosecutor finds deputies’ use of deadly force lawful

TACOMA, WA – Independent and concurrent investigations by the Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office, the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department and the Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office, regarding the shooting death of Justin Christopher Baker, 36, have been completed. Baker died from multiple gunshot wounds inflicted by Pierce County Sheriff’s Deputies David Sutherland, Brian Coburn, Robert Blumenschine, Roger Fuller, and Chad Helligso. Deputies opened fire after Baker advanced on them with a running chainsaw.

Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist concluded the deputies acted lawfully. "This is an unfortunate example of suicide-by-cop,” Prosecutor Lindquist said. “It’s also an example of what methamphetamine can do to a person’s mental and emotional stability.”

In the early morning hours of August 30, 2016, Baker showed up unexpectedly and uninvited at his parents’ residence, wielding a running chainsaw and making various threats to enter the residence, kill himself with the chainsaw, and to attack the deputies when they showed up. The father also reported that he felt Baker was planning to commit “suicide by cop” by making deputies take action against him when they arrived. He also said his son had a history of drug use.

This information was relayed to the responding deputies. They arrived a short time later and confronted Baker while he was holding and revving the chainsaw in a threatening manner toward the deputies. The deputies pointed their duty firearms at Baker while giving him verbal commands to put the chainsaw down on the ground and move away from it. Baker continued to hold the chainsaw out towards the deputies while revving it. One of the deputies fired his taser, hitting Baker, but this failed to stop him. Baker charged the deputies with the running chainsaw, and deputies shot and killed him.

Medical Examiner Dr. Thomas Clark determined that Baker had 27 gunshot wounds, of which several had the potential to be fatal. The postmortem toxicology report indicated Baker had a large quantity of methamphetamine and amphetamines in his system at the time of his death. Dr. Clark stated that the amount of these drugs in Baker’s system was potentially fatal.

For more information, please contact James Lynch at (253) 798-6265, [email protected].