22-year Kelso Police veteran John Johnston is now on paid administrative leave, also recovering from injuries that he received in yesterday’s fatal shooting at the Flying K convenience store and gas station in West Kelso. Sheriff Mark Nelson describes what happened just after 8 yesterday morning. Police actually got their first heads-up on the man involved at about 1:30 yesterday morning, when a clerk at the 24-hour market reported that a man walked out of the store with some items, after his card was declined. At that time, it was reported that the man was “carrying a block of wood,” and that he threatened a volunteer firefighter who was on the scene. Yesterday’s events unfolded after a second shoplifting incident, and then the shooting took place as the officer was talking with the clerk about that incident. It’s alleged that the victim attacked a customer, a clerk and Officer Johnston, reportedly hitting Johnston in the face with the piece of wood. The man’s name has not yet been released; they say he’s a transient who may have come to this area from eastern Washington, and may be from the Sudan. An update is planned at 11 this morning.
Social media lit up after the shooting, including some speculative statements about Blacks Lives Matter protestors supposedly being “on their way,” urging local residents to arm themselves and to confront those people. BLM never showed up, but there was a peaceful vigil yesterday evening involving about 40 local residents, led by local pastors and police chaplains. They held prayers and sang songs, but no disruptions were reported.