Emma Epperly / The Spokesperson-Review
A 23-year-old Marshalls man had a knife and a toddler in his hands seconds before police shot and killed him in January, according to body camera footage released Thursday.
The Spokane Police Department released the footage in an effort to “provide transparency to the public,” Capt. Tom Hendren said at a Thursday morning news conference.
The release of the footage comes as Spokane County District Attorney Larry Haskell reviews the case following an investigation into the Washington State Patrol shooting.
In September, Peterson Kamo’s family filed a lawsuit against the city alleging that police did not take the time to fully understand the situation before shooting him. Family attorney Bill Gilbert said Thursday he had hired experts to review unredacted body camera footage and to examine how officers could have defused the situation at an organizational level.
On Jan. 24, officers responded to a call classified as an “unknown issue,” Hendren said. A caller had told dispatchers that their neighbor, who didn’t speak much English, had come to his door crying and saying his son was dead.
Officers were advised there had been an unknown assault and a 24-year-old Pacific Islander man was attempting to drive away in an SUV, Hendren said. The man backed into another vehicle and then entered the house, the caller reported.
Body camera footage shows Officer Corrigan Mohondro arriving and casually walking home with Sgt. Kevin Vaughn.
“What is happening?” Mohondro asks his colleague.
Next, Kamo’s mother, Brenda Kamo, can be heard screaming.
“Please hurry, I need help,” she said.
Again, “Can you hurry?”
“My son (unintelligible) the baby and he said he was going to kill the baby and himself,” she said.
At that moment, Mohondro looks toward the house, where, according to the statement he gave to investigators read by Hendren, he saw Peterson Kamo holding a knife to his 2-year-old nephew’s throat.
“I saw him suddenly raise a knife beside him and point it at the child and start screaming,” Mohondro wrote.
What Mohondro says he saw cannot be seen on the body camera footage, Hendren said.
Mohondro pulled out his handgun and rushed home.
“I’ll take him. He’s got a knife for the baby,” he shouted. “He has a knife for the baby.”
He then shouted for a gun as other officers arrived at the townhouse. Mohondro said he saw Kamo picking up a canister of Coleman camping fuel as he walked up the stairs.
The officers piled into the main entrance of the house which opens directly onto a staircase. Kamo can be seen partially culminating above the stairs.
“Drop the baby,” Mohondro shouted. “Sir, let the baby go now.”
“…don’t come up here,” Kamo said. “Hey, I never wanted that to happen, man.”
Kamo tells the officers that the child is fine.
“Why are you trying to shoot me? Kamo said. “If you shoot me, you will hit him too.”
The commotion grows below as more officers arrive while Mohondro continues to talk to Kamo.
“We need to see you to know the baby is okay, to talk,” Mohondro said.
“He’s fine,” Kamo replies.
“I’ve got my hands up, man. I’ve got nothing on me,” Kamo said holding out one hand on the landing.
“Look, I’m not holding anything, man,” Kamo said. “Why do you have guns pointed at me? »
“Because, man, you had a knife pointed at the baby,” Mohondro replied.
“I didn’t point a knife at him,” Kamo said.
The two continue to come and go as officers, including Cpl. Brandon Lynch, a SWAT team member who arrived with his rifle, discusses what to do. Lynch is assigned as the officer to shoot Kamo if the hostage situation continues. Hendren said officers likely made the decision because of Lynch’s training on the SWAT team and because he brought his rifle from the patrol car.
Some officers want to go up the stairs while one officer says “hey, relax man, relax” to the other officers. Then someone yells at Kamo that if he lets the baby go, the guns will go.
The agents push again to go up the stairs. Someone said Kamo poured the fuel from the can on the carpet. Then someone else said Kamo was going to set it on fire.
That’s when Kamo responds.
“Are you all coming? No, no, no, no, no, you’re all scaring me right now,” Kamo said in objection. “As soon as I hear footsteps, I’m (unintelligible).”
Mohondro and Lynch push the stairs towards Kamo, who is standing at the top. In Lynch’s body camera footage, a silver knife can be seen in Kamo’s hand near the baby.
“I could clearly see a silver knife in the man’s right hand,” Lynch wrote in his statement to investigators. “The knife was pointed as if about to strike at any moment.”
Lynch fired a shot, which did not hit Kamo, as he ran up the stairs.
Kamo turned as Mohondro yelled at him to drop the knife. Seconds later, Mohondro and Lynch fired again, this time hitting Kamo.
The 23-year-old fell to the ground, releasing the toddler.
Officers immediately began first aid, but Kamo was pronounced dead at the scene.
In their lawsuit, Kamo’s family said the 23-year-old and his father had a heartbreak-fueled argument that morning, just days after the death of Kamo’s brother, Lamoa Kamo.
Officers didn’t spend much time speaking with the family before rushing into the house, which the family says led police to misinterpret the situation.
Gilbert said in September that WSP investigators never interviewed the Kamo family and refused to meet with them.
WSP concluded its investigation in mid-July, and the results were sent to the Spokane County District Attorney’s Office for review. The matter remained under review Thursday, Haskell said.
“The officers let the scene control them instead of them controlling the scene,” said Gilbert, himself a former law enforcement officer. “An escalated officer must defuse before he can defuse the situation.”
Gilbert said there was no way Kamo could start a fire at the top of the stairs as no lighters or matches were found nearby, and investigators did not recover the gas can. or the carpet as evidence.
Hendren said he didn’t know if there was actually fuel in the can or if there was evidence that Kamo had spilled fuel on the ground. He said he limited his review of the case to the officer’s actions.
Hendren said Thursday he was not passing judgment on the officers’ actions, simply releasing the footage to show the public what officers knew at the time of the shooting.
In the unredacted footage, Gilbert said Kamo could be seen dropping the knife, in response to the officer’s orders, at the top of the stairs after Lynch fired his first shot.
“They don’t give him time to respond before they kill him,” Gilbert said.
The family hopes to review the record of the shooting and the investigation to see if there was a way to prevent it, Gilbert said. They are also waiting for the prosecutor’s office to rule on the merits of the police actions.
The prosecutor’s office has not found fault with officers’ use of lethal force for more than 20 years.
Lynch has shot four people since joining the SPD. In 2016, he and officer Chris LeQuire shot and killed a man outside House of Charity. In 2021, Lynch was among six officers who shot and killed a man who shot them after police tried to stop his vehicle in downtown Spokane.
In August, Lynch was named as one of the officers who shot and killed a man after an hour-long standoff in downtown Spokane.
The police department did not notify the Kamo family that it planned to release the body camera footage on Thursday, which Gilbert said was upsetting.
The department had no interaction with the family because it was not the investigating agency, Cpl said. Spokane Police Department spokesman Nick Briggs. Ongoing litigation against the department is also a factor, Briggs said.
Thursday’s press conference was scheduled after multiple public records requests for the footage were completed, Hendren added. He also noted that the deletions in the video were done in part to preserve the family’s privacy.
“At the end of the day, whether you, you know, judge whether the officers are justified or not, for the family, they lost a loved one,” Hendren said. “It was a traumatic event. It was a horrible situation.”