December 30, 2015
For Immediate Release
RE: Use of Deadly or Dangerous Force by Officer Andrew Ashpole with the Newport Police Department, December 9, 2015
Injured Party: Nantharath Thilavanh, 53
On December 9th, around 11:30am Officer Ashpole with the Newport Police Department responded to the Agate Beach RV Park to address a complaint that a person was trespassing. The resident at the Agate Beach RV Park indicated that she wanted the trespasser removed but not arrested.
Officer Ashpole made contact with the subject, later identified as Nantharath Thilavanh. When Officer Ashpole ran Mr. Thilavanh’s name through the Law Enforcement Data System he found that Mr. Thilavanh had an active warrant for his arrest out of Multnomah County. Based on this information, Officer Ashpole attempted to take Mr. Thilavanh into custody.
Officer Ashpole asked Mr. Thilavanh to turn over his knives and to take the hammer out of his pants. At the moment Officer Ashpole mentioned that Mr. Thilavanh had a warrant, Mr. Thilavanh took a hammer that was resting in his hand and turned the hammer so it could be used as a weapon. Officer Ashpole pulled his firearm and ordered Mr. Thilavanh to drop the hammer.
Officer Ashpole was joined by another officer, Thomas Lekas. Officer Lekas attempted to de-escalate the situation. Officer Lekas drew his Taser and ordered Mr. Thilavanh to drop the hammer. Several attempts were made to subdue Mr. Thilavahn with a Taser. Officer Lekas’ Taser record indicates he activated his Taser eight times. All eight attempts were ineffective against Mr. Thilavahn. Mr. Thilavahn was wearing several layers of clothing that prevented the Taser points from making contact with Mr. Thilavahn’s body.
During the entire encounter, both officers were giving loud verbal commands to drop the weapon.
Deputy Rene Lopez arrived on scene to assist. Deputy Lopez tried to use pepper spray to assist in restraining Mr. Thilavanh. Both attempts did not deter Mr. Thilavahn.
Deputy Lopez then tried to use his Taser on Mr. Thilavahn but the Taser malfunctioned. At that point Mr. Thilavahn ran from the police officers on to Highway 101. Highway traffic was interrupted while officers continued to take control of Mr. Thilavanh and the hammer. While wielding the hammer, Mr. Thilavanh approached a school bus that was located on the south side of Highway 101. Officer Lekas informed him that he would be shot if he continued towards the bus with the hammer. The Officers continued to warn Mr. Thilavanh that he would be shot if he did not drop the hammer.
During the entire incident, Officer Ashpole had his firearm and/or Taser aimed at Mr. Thilavanh. Officer Ashpole continued to yell verbal commands for Mr. Thilavanh to drop the hammer or he could be shot.
The Officers discussed other non-lethal ways to restrain Mr. Thilavanh; however Mr. Thilavanh was wearing several layers of clothing, potentially concealing additional weapons. He continued to hold the hammer above his head in a threatening manner. His actions were erratic. Officer Ashpole, Deputy Lopez and Officer Lekas, working togeether, were unable to remove Mr. Thilavanh from Highway 101.
While standing on Highway 101, Mr. Thilavanh lunged at an officer with the hammer raised in an aggressive stance. Officer Ashpole fired three shots from his duty weapon. Mr. Thilavanh continued to wield the hammer after the initial shots were fired and advanced on the officers, at which time Officer Ashpole fired three additional shots. Mr. Thilavanh was hit by two of the shots. He sustained injuries to his knee and hip.
Additional Newport Police Officers, Sheriff’s Deputies and Oregon State Police troopers arrived and assisted in providing first aid to Mr. Thilavanh. Mr. Thilavahn was taken to Samaritan Hospital in Newport then flown to Good Samaritan hospital in Corvallis. While in the care of Good Samaritan, Mr. Thilavanh has refused any medical treatment.
The Oregon State Police took the lead on the investigation, to comply with the Lincoln County Senate Bill 111, Deadly Physical Force Plan. This Plan requires that an agency not involved in the use of force in the incident must take the lead in the investigation. The Oregon State Police has provided the District Attorney’s Office with a complete and thorough investigation.
The DA’s office has viewed the video and read reports provided by the Oregon State Police. Medical records and eye witness accounts have been considered. The Use of Force protocols maintained by the Newport Police department have been consulted. Additionally, the Use of Force Training Manual offered by the Department of Public Safety and Standards Training (DPSST) was reviewed. The District Attorney’s office also sought advice from Use of Force Experts when making the decision whether or not Office Ashpole’s use of deadly force was justified.
As the District Attorney of Lincoln County, I am finding that Officer Andrew Ashpole’s actions were justified under the circumstances. Because I have determined that Officer Ashpole did not commit a crime, this case will not be presented to the Grand Jury.
Below is a replay of the video of the shooting as captured by a person first in line among stopped cars at the incident scene.