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Prosecuting Attorney

Posted on: November 9, 2018

Prosecutor's Office Finds Deputy’s Use of Deadly Force Lawful

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TACOMA, WA - Independent investigations by the Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office, the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department, and the Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office regarding the shooting death of William Langfitt, IV, have been completed.

Pierce County Medical Examiner Dr. Thomas Clark determined Langfitt, 28, died from multiple gunshot wounds. The shots were fired by Pierce County Sheriff’s Deputy Colby Edwards. 

Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist reviewed the investigations and concluded Deputy Edwards acted lawfully and determined this was a justifiable homicide as defined by RCW 9A.16.030. 

“Mr. Langfitt was clearly in need of mental health treatment,” said Prosecutor Lindquist. “This justified shooting highlights the need to provide mental health services before the issues and conduct escalate.”

On the night of March 16, 2018, Pierce County Deputies were called to the area of 252nd St. E. & Mountain Highway in Pierce County, Washington regarding a person, later identified as William Langfitt, reportedly having a “mental breakdown.” The 911 caller, identified as Naomi Powers, said Langfitt had been armed with a knife but she had taken it away from him.

While deputies were in route, the 911 operator could hear Powers screaming and saying, “Let go of me,” and “Stop it”. This information was relayed to the responding deputies. Powers then told the 911 operator that Langfitt was in the roadway trying to jump into passing vehicles. 

Deputy Colby Edwards arrived in the area and saw Langfitt at the driver’s side of a white SUV just west of Mountain Highway on 252nd. Langfitt was pounding on the driver’s side window of the SUV. Deputy Edwards began turning onto 252nd from Mountain Highway when Langfitt immediately charged towards Deputy Edward’s marked patrol vehicle which had its emergency lights activated. 

Deputy Edwards exited his vehicle in the middle of the intersection and began giving Langfitt verbal commands to stop his aggressive actions. Langfitt continued to charge at Deputy Edwards with an unknown object in his right hand. Langfitt had what Deputy Edwards described as a “1000-yard stare” in his eyes. 

Deputy Edwards was forced to back away from his driver’s door and draw his firearm as he continued to back pedal toward the rear of his vehicle for safety and distance due to Langfitt’s irrational, erratic and aggressive behavior directed at Deputy Edwards. 

As Langfitt was passing the open driver’s door of the deputy’s patrol vehicle, Langfitt suddenly turned and entered the still running vehicle. Deputy Edwards immediately feared that he and the community would be in extreme danger if Langfitt took control of the vehicle or gained access to Deputy Edwards’ loaded patrol rifle inside the vehicle.

Deputy Edwards made the decision to stop Langfitt’s actions and fired several rounds into the vehicle at Langfitt, killing him.

Follow up investigation revealed that Langfitt had recently begun experiencing mental health issues. He was acting paranoid, was hallucinating, and having fits of extreme rage. 

For more information, please contact James Lynch at (253) 798-6265, jlynch@co.pierce.wa.us.

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