Officer who killed man at car wash has history of excessive force

YAKIMA, Wash. -- The same Yakima officer who shot a man to death at a car wash was previously reprimanded for using too much force. KIMA filed a public records request on officer investigations and learned Officer Casey Gillette received a written reprimand for hitting a man for no reason.

The incident back in May resulted in an internal investigation. Documents say the trouble started when a drunk man tried coercing officers to fight him. The investigation found Officer Gillette took that dare and hit the man.

Captain Rod Light says it isn't unusual for police officers to be yelled at or taunted.

"The number of people who just clearly have a disdain for law enforcement, we come in contact with those people every day," Light said.

But in those instances, the officers are expected to remain professional and follow the law. An internal investigation suggests Officer Casey Gillette did not follow those guidelines.

The officer was sent to North Seventh Street after someone called to report a fight in the middle of the night. When he got there, no one was outside. But then a man who looked to be drunk came out of his house. The report says he yelled at officers to fight him. That's when things got out of hand quickly.

The internal investigation documents state that before officers said anything to the drunk man, and before he had any opportunity to comply with their request, Officer Gillette walked onto the man's property and hit him in the head. A fellow officer reported Gillette's actions. The internal investigation determined Gillette deserved a written reprimand for using excessive force.

Less than a year later, Gillette was called to a car wash on Nob Hill Boulevard after someone reported a suspicious car.

Gillette shot and killed 23-year-old Rocendo Arias who was sitting inside his car.

Gillette said the young father was holding a gun and had his finger on the trigger. It turned out to be an Airsoft gun. Arias died from a single shot to the head. It hasn't been decided if the use of deadly force was justified.

"We stand behind our officers when they are put in this position to make this kind of decision and to use this kind of force," Light said. "We will stand behind him."

Gillette is not yet back at work after being put on leave following the deadly shooting. There is a date the department hopes for him to come back.

"So, he can come to work before the shooting is ruled justified?" KIMA asked.
"If it's deemed through a doctor that he is able to perform the functions as a police officer and do his job," Light responded.

And doing his job is one thing police say they had full confidence in, even after the excessive force reprimand.

"We're talking two completely different situations," Light said. "Completely."

Gillette has been with the Yakima Police Department for a little more than a year. Prior to that, he was with the Toppenish Police Department.

If the Yakima County Prosecutor's Office determines the car wash shooting was justified, an internal investigation won't be needed.

KIMA tried reaching Officer Gillette but our attempts were unsuccessful.

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