VALE — Two Oregon State Police troopers who fired their service weapons during an officer-involved shooting on Thursday afternoon in Ontario are on paid administrative leave, a standard procedure that takes place until the incident is fully reviewed by the district attorney.
Malheur County District Attorney David Goldthorpe said the State Trooper Association allows them the right to talk to counsel before doing a recorded interview which is then transcribed. Those interviews are currently slated for Wednesday.
Goldthorpe said after he reviews everything he’ll have two options. The first is to either make a decision about whether a crime was committed or whether the shooting was appropriate. The other option would be to allow a grand jury to decide, which would be done if the evidence was too vague or there were too many questions.
“From viewing videos, I don’t think it will be necessary in this case, but I want to be sure,” Goldthorpe said, adding that he won’t do that until he can compare the troopers’ interviews.
However, he has been able to review footage from dash cams of both troopers vehicles.
“Both gave a very clear picture of what happened,” Goldthorpe said. “Especially when viewed together.”
The shooting followed a high-speed chase out of Idaho on Thursday afternoon, which ended when the driver, Victor J. Morales Zavala, 25, of Ontario, stopped the stolen vehicle he was driving just west of the underpass on East Idaho Avenue. He exited the vehicle and at some point held a firearm he had with him to his own head.
According to Goldthorpe, the officers saw “movements after that point, that happened before any shots were fired.”
Zavala was shot at about 4:51 p.m. and was subsequently transported to an Ontario hospital where he was pronounced dead a short time later.
Goldthorpe said he was not comfortable yet disclosing how many rounds were discharged from the troopers’ service weapons. This is partially due to the interviews not being conducted and the fact that the autopsy has not been done yet.
Zavala’s body was taken to a crime lab in Clackamas County which will be able to confirm how many times Zavala was shot.
The officers involved in the shooting will be on leave for a period of time, although Goldthorpe wasn’t sure for how long or what the maximum time limit would be.
For mental health purposes, he said, “At least a week or so is guaranteed and they are required to do at least one session with a counselor before coming back.
As soon as he has the answers he’s waiting for, Goldthorpe said he would be able to make a final determination about whether the troopers were in the right in the shooting.
Agencies involved in the chase included Oregon and Idaho state police, Ontario Police Department, High Desert Task Force, Treasure Valley Paramedics, Ontario Fire and Malheur County Sheriff’s Office, which is leading the investigation.