Whatcom County Prosecutor: Deadly Border Patrol shooting in Sumas was justified

The U.S. Border Patrol sets up road blocks at Kneuman Road just west of Sumas Thursday, March 19, 2015 after a man was shot and killed.
The U.S. Border Patrol sets up road blocks at Kneuman Road just west of Sumas Thursday, March 19, 2015 after a man was shot and killed. The Bellingham Herald

A U.S. Border Patrol agent was justified in using deadly force in the shooting death of a 20-year-old Canadian man who illegally crossed the border in March, according to the Whatcom County prosecutor.

Mere minutes after illegally crossing into the U.S. on March 19, Jamison Edward Childress sprayed a U.S. Border Patrol agent with bear spray and was shot to death by the same agent, who feared for his safety and that of nearby officers, Whatcom County Prosecuting Attorney Dave McEachran said Tuesday, May 19.

“Officers can use deadly force if necessary when trying to discharge their legal duty,” McEachran said in a phone interview Tuesday. “Officers try to look for a way not to do that, and in this case the officer retreated as far as he could. His concern is for his safety and that of all of the other officers there. Certainly this was a very justified use of deadly force.”

Neither McEachran nor the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office, which took the lead in the investigation, would release the name of the agent who killed Childress. Another Border Patrol agent, who was the first to encounter Childress, was identified only by last name in a detailed account of that day McEachran released on Tuesday.

According to Whatcom County Undersheriff Jeff Parks, when a partnership of local law enforcement agencies stepped in to take on the investigation, Border Patrol made an agreement they would retain the right to release information about their involved personnel.

However, a Border Patrol spokeswoman said late Tuesday afternoon that her agency isn’t allowed to release more information than the prosecutor’s office. She declined to release the agent’s name.

Childress, from Prince George, B.C., was wanted on a charge of murder in the first degree for the killing of Brando Walker, 18, of Calgary, Alberta, before the incident, according to Canadian police.

He walked into the U.S. near the Sumas border crossing around 2:20 p.m. March 19 and tripped a border sensor. Soon after he was confronted by a Border Patrol agent identified in the prosecutor’s news release as “Agent Lulow.”

Lulow asked to talk to Childress, who was carrying a blue backpack and “appeared disheveled, frightened, and started backing up,” according to a news release from the prosecutor’s office.

When Childress started going through his backpack, Lulow ordered him to show his hands, but he didn’t stop digging through the bag.

Lulow drew his gun and held it in a “low ready position,” before Childress pulled a can of bear spray out of his bag, the release states.

The agent ordered Childress to drop the bear spray. Childress dropped his bag and ran down a hill into a thicket of blackberry bushes.

Lulow radioed his position and noted that the man had been mumbling incoherently.

Within minutes, Sumas Police Chief Chris Haugen and Sumas Officer Daniel DeBruin drove their patrol cars to Kneuman Way where Childress was headed and had come out of the thicket. An unnamed Border Patrol agent pulled in opposite the two officers, blocking Childress in.

Childress reportedly started walking toward Haugen and DeBruin, screaming “Kill me!” and “Just (expletive) shoot me!” while pointing the can of bear spray at the officers, according to the news release.

The officers backed their cars up as he got closer, then Childress turned and started toward the Border Patrol agent.

The agent yelled for Childress to stop, but he sped up, yelling profanities, including “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 sprayed him with the bear spray, which contains pepper spray, he would have to shoot him, the release states.

“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.”

The agent fired twice, but only one bullet was recovered in an autopsy. The official cause of death was a gunshot wound to the left temple, according to the Whatcom County medical examiner.

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 said. “(Officers) never know when they’re going to encounter someone who is wanted for a really serious crime. People who are wanted automatically assume the officers know that. We have this happen more often than we certainly would want.”

McEachran’s decision that the shooting was justified ends the investigation into the incident, he said.

“These are always really traumatic things for everybody, certainly for the officers,” McEachran said. “It’s always tragic to lose life. We always try to look at these as carefully and objectively as we can.”