The Centralia police officer who fatally shot the 48-year-old, knife-wielding man after a confrontation early Thursday morning near Mellen Street in Centralia has been identified as Phil Weismiller, a five-year officer and former army captain, according to the police chief.
Centralia Police Chief Bob Berg said late Thursday morning that Weismiller was the second officer to arrive on scene and the one who shot the man who police say was armed with a knife and refused to drop it when ordered to do so.
The 48-year-old man’s identity has not yet been confirmed, though police said the man had out-of-state identification on him.
In accordance with department policy regarding officer-involved shooting, Berg said that Weismiller has been placed on paid administrative leave.
Weismiller has already given a statement to initial investigators and will be available for follow up interviews by investigators from Region 3 Critical Incident Investigation Team, Berg said.
The officer who initially contacted the man, Tracy Murphy, has not been placed on administrative leave as he was not directly involved in the shooting itself, Berg said.
The shooting occurred at about 2:20 a.m. after Murphy saw a man behind Fiddlers Coffee, which was closed, on the 1200 block of Mellen Street, according to Centralia police.
When Murphy attempted to contact the man, he ignored the officer and began walking away across the street toward an abandoned building, according to a press release from the police department. Murphy followed the man, who then turned and displayed a knife to the officer. The officer ordered the man to drop the knife, but the man refused, according to police. The man then told the officer he also had a gun.
The man then turned and started running away. At that point, Weismiller arrived at the scene and started to pursue the man on foot, according to the release. About a block away, on the 1200 block of Elm Street, the man stopped and confronted both officers with a knife, police say. Weismiller then fatally shot the man.
While the chief said initially that the Centralia Police Department would handle the investigation, he said late Thursday morning that while they handled the preliminary part of it, such as taking statements and securing the crime scene, the incident will be investigated by a regional, multi-agency investigative team. Their findings will then be passed onto the prosecutor’s office for review.
Washington State Patrol was on scene Thursday morning processing the crime scene, he said.
Weismiller is a 34-year-old Centralia police officer who has worked for the department for one year and seven months, Berg said. Prior to his employment at Centralia, he worked at the Kelso Police Department for three years and nine months.
Weismiller also worked previously as a captain in the U.S. Army in Afghanistan, Berg said.
Centralia Police Officer Patricia Finch said the circumstances of the confrontation between the man and the officers is still under investigation and she did not know how far away the man was from police at the time of his death. She also did not know the size of the knife.
The reason for the initial contact was because the man was behind a closed business in the middle of the night, Finch said.
The man was carrying out-of-state identification and is not known to police., according to police.
“While the investigation is preliminary at this time, my initial assessment is that the officer acted properly and in policy,” Berg said Thursday morning. “Having said that, it is premature to comment on the outcome on an investigation that has just begun.”