SUMAS, Wash. – A prosecutor in Washington state says a U.S. Border Patrol agent was justified in fatally shooting a 20-year-old British Columbia man who crossed the U.S.-Canada border illegally in March and sprayed the agent with bear spray.
Whatcom County prosecutor Dave McEachran said the agent retreated as far as he could from the young man, identified as Jamison Childress, and warned the man that he would have to shoot if the bear spray was deployed.
The RCMP in Alberta have said the young man from Prince George was sought on a murder charge in the killing of 18-year-old Brando Walker in Alberta. Walker’s partially burned body was found on the Tsuu T’ina Nation reserve near Calgary on March 7, although RCMP say he was killed in a Calgary home.
The Whatcom County sheriff’s office took the lead in investigating the March 19 shooting. Childress was confronted after he walked across the border near Sumas, Washington and tripped a border sensor. He reportedly screamed “Kill me!” at responding officers.
Neither McEachran nor the sheriff’s office would release the name of the agent who killed Childress, who had faced several charges in B.C., including theft, mischief and assault.
Sumas Police Chief Chris Haugen and Sumas Officer Daniel DeBruin were among those who responded after another Border Patrol agent initially confronted Childress.
According to an account McEachran released Tuesday, Childress started walking toward Haugen and DeBruin, screaming “Kill me!” and “Just (expletive) shoot me!” while pointing the can of bear spray at the officers.
The officers backed their cars up as he got closer, then Childress turned and started toward a second Border Patrol agent who had recently arrived.
The agent yelled for Childress to stop, but he sped up, yelling “You better (expletive) kill me pig!” according to the prosecutor’s report.
When the agent had backed up to a drainage ditch and had nowhere else to go, he warned Childress that if he used the bear spray, the agent would have to shoot, the report said.
“The officer was sprayed before he fired,” McEachran said. “The officers could see this huge cloud sprayed. It was coming right at his face, he shot his gun at that point, then was overcome by the spray.”
While the agent fired twice, only one bullet was recovered in an autopsy. The Whatcom County medical examiner said Childress died from a gunshot wound to the left temple.
A toxicology test showed Childress was under the influence of THC, a substance found in marijuana.
“We found out later on he was wanted for murder in Calgary,” McEachran told The Bellingham Herald newspaper. “(Officers) never know when they’re going to encounter someone who is wanted for a really serious crime.”
“These are always really traumatic things for everybody, certainly for the officers,” he said. “It’s always tragic to lose life.”