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Omer Ismail Ali, 27
Kelso, Washington
August 17, 2016

Agencies: Kelso Police Department Washington | Cowlitz County Sheriff's Office Washington

Last updated: 6 months ago

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The officer involved, identified as 22-year veteran patrolman John Johnston, suffered a head injury and was treated briefly Wednesday at St. John Medical Center, according to Kelso Police Chief Andrew Hamilton.

An eyewitness at the store, who asked to remain anonymous, called Officer Johnston “a hero” for protecting store employees and customers. And a local African-American activist said she supports the police officer because she doesn’t believe race played a role in the incident.

Johnston, in accordance with standard procedure, was placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation of the shooting. He will be referred to a doctor for a knee injury suffered in the altercation, Hamilton said.

The assailant, a 27-year-old black male, was pronounced dead at the scene. The man was a transient and had been contacted by law enforcement a few times recently, including Tuesday night, according to Cowlitz County Sheriff Mark Nelson.

Police are investigating reports that the assailant is an Eastern Washington man originally from Sudan, but they haven’t reached his family. For that reason, The Daily News is withholding his identity.

Details emerged later Wednesday that clarified some earlier reports.

According to Nelson, a clerk in the Flying K, located at First Avenue and West Main Street near the foot of the Allen Street Bridge, called police at 8 a.m. to report that a shoplifter had just left the store and was walking toward the Red Leaf cafe.

At about 8:10 a.m., officer Johnston was interviewing store workers when the man returned with what police first described as a walking stick but later was described as a piece of wood such as a 2-by-4. Wielding it like a club, Nelson said, the man started hitting the clerk, a customer and officer Johnston. Johnston was struck in the head, Nelson said.

At that point, the officer pulled out his gun and shot the man at about 8:15 a.m., according to Nelson. He did not say how many shots Johnston fired.

An autopsy tentatively is scheduled for Friday, according to the Cowlitz County Coroner’s Office.