Investigators ID Pierce County deputies involved in fatal shooting near Parkland
A Pierce County team that investigates police uses of deadly force identified three Sheriff’s Department deputies Friday who were involved in the fatal shooting of a man who reportedly threatened to shoot up his former employer’s place of business.
Deputies shot the man, 25-year-old Branden Vorak, in a confrontation near Parkland. Investigators have previously said Vorak was fired from his job at a bar March 23, then returned the next day and made the threats. Deputies were dispatched to the business, but the man left before they arrived. He was spotted less than an hour later on train tracks, and he reportedly pulled the pin on a grenade and produced a handgun before he was shot.
Those involved were deputies Chad Chapman, 29; Courtney Quandt, 38 and Derek Wetlaufer, 52, according to the Pierce County Force Investigation Team. A spokesperson for the team could not confirm how many of those involved actually fired gunshots at Vorak.
Chapman has been with the Sheriff’s Department for five-and-a-half years, investigators said. Quandt has worked for the department for three months and previously spent more than 10 years with the Port of Seattle Police Department. Wetlaufer has been a Pierce County deputy for nearly five years.
All were placed on administrative leave shortly after the shooting, PCFIT spokesperson Sgt. Charles Porche said.
Investigators said Vorak was walking away from deputies when he was first seen. According to previous reporting from The News Tribune, dispatch recordings indicated he was seen on train tracks near 99th Street East and Portland Avenue, and he was walking home. PCFIT said deputies had established probable cause to arrest him for felony harassment/threats. Deputies followed him nearly a mile south on the tracks until he was shot near the 1800 block of 112th Street East, just south of state Route 512.
Vorak does not appear to have any prior felony criminal history in Pierce County, according to court records. Snohomish County court records show an anti-harassment protection order was filed against him there in February 2016.
Deputies reportedly used less lethal projectiles to try to stop Vorak, but they weren’t successful. Investigators said the shooting occurred once he pulled out a handgun. Vorak was pronounced dead at the scene, and the Pierce County medical examiner later found he died of multiple gunshot wounds.
Investigators haven’t provided any substantial information about the hand grenade Vorak was holding. It’s unclear what kind of grenade it was or if it was functioning. Sgt. Porche said in a previous phone call with the newspaper that just because Vorak pulled the pin does not necessarily mean it would have gone off. He said a grenade typically has a safety handle — also called a spoon — that must be released for the device to detonate.
An explosives response team was called to the scene after the shooting, and investigators said they rendered the grenade safe.