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Randle Shooting Death Ruled a Homicide; Investigation Ongoing

By Natalie Johnson / njohnson@chronline.com

The Lewis County Coroner’s Office on Tuesday identified the man shot and killed July 4 in Randle as 51-year-old transient Dusty Phelps. 

An autopsy was conducted last week. His cause of death was determined to be a penetrating gunshot wound to the head, and the manner of death classified as homicide.

Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer explained that the coroner’s determination that the death was a result of homicide does not correspond with criminal charges.

The word homicide “simply means that one person took another person’s life,” Meyer said. 

It doesn’t take into account whether the killing was justified or an act of self-defense, he said. 

The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office is still actively investigating the incident. Meyer said his office will review the Sheriff’s Office’s report of the shooting when it is complete and make a decision on any possible charges at that point. 

According to the Sheriff’s Office, deputies responded at 7:14 p.m. Tuesday to a report of a fatal shooting off Forest Service Road 2801 near Cispus Road in Randle.

The 911 caller, a 63-year-old Glenoma man, reported that he shot a man at a campsite in self-defense. The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office, Washington State Patrol, Morton Police Department and the Washington state Department of Fish and Wildlife responded. 

The man reported that he and his wife went to another part of the campground in their vehicle to confront Phelps, who was allegedly discharging a gun in an unsafe manner, according to the Sheriff’s Office. 

The man reported Phelps fired several shots at the vehicle before he returned fire with one shot, striking Phelps in the head and causing his death. 

A press release from the Sheriff’s Office last week noted that evidence at the scene appears to be consistent with the Glenoma man’s account. However, an investigation is ongoing. 

Anyone with information on the incident is asked to call the Sheriff’s Office at 360-748-9286 or Lewis County 911 Communications at 360-740-1105.