YPD said the officer shot and killed Rocendo Arias because he saw him holding a gun in his car. Arias took a bullet to the head.
Investigators said Yakima Police Officer Casey Gilette saw a suspicious car parked at a car wash. After noticing it hadn't moved for an hour, YPD said Gilette approached Rocendo Arias's car. First on the driver's side, then the passenger's side and opened the door. The officer told investigators he saw Arias holding a gun.
"It appeared that he had some accessories to the handgun that he was trying to install on it or put pieces of this gun together," said Yakima police Captain Rod Light.
Gilette shot four times, hitting Arias once in the head. YPD Spokesperson Rod Light maintains the officer had reason to react.
"The deceased had the weapon not only in his hand, but he also had his finger on the trigger," said Light.
However, investigators learned that Arias' weapon wasn't a typical gun. It was an Airsoft gun, considered a replica that shoots plastic pellets. While these guns can fire at high velocity, they're not designed to be lethal. YPD said it's not clear if Arias pointed the gun at Gilette before the shooting.
"It's three in the morning," said Light. "It's dark and again we haven't interviewed this officer yet so it's hard to speculate what he saw."
Gilette has been with YPD for 14 months and the Toppenish Police Department earlier in his career.
Investigators plan to search Arias' car to see what happened to the other bullets. Gilette is now on paid administrative leave during the investigation. He will be interviewed later this week.