Lakewood police fired pepper balls at a driver during a traffic stop on U.S. 6 Sunday afternoon before the man fatally shot himself, a police spokeswoman confirmed Monday.
The incident began around 3:10 p.m. on eastbound U.S. 6 just past the intersection with Wadsworth Boulevard, when police officers attempted to pull the driver over after a report of a “road rage menacing incident,” Agent Lauren Castrogiovanni said.
The driver, later identified as 18-year-old Jesse Brown, “failed to yield for several exits,” and during that time officers learned the vehicle he was driving had been reported stolen, Castrogiovanni said.
Brown eventually pulled over, but when officers approached the vehicle, he warned that he had a gun, Castrogiovanni said.
“He was threatening, he had a gun but wouldn’t show it, he was sticking his head out the window, threatening he had guns, wouldn’t show his hands,” she said. “They used pepper balls to try to get him out of the vehicle, which ultimately did not work.”
Castrogiovanni said she was aware of one officer firing pepper balls through the back window of the car. A police spokesman on Sunday said officers did not fire their weapons; Castrogiovanni clarified Monday that officers did not fire their guns but that one did fire pepper balls.
She said the officer who fired the pepper balls had hoped the chemical irritant would force the driver to get out of the vehicle while the officers maintained a safe position. Brown had “several active felony warrants” for his arrest, and police later found a stolen gun inside the vehicle.
After Brown shot himself, he was taken to a hospital where he died, Castrogiovanni said.
U.S. 6 eastbound was closed to traffic Sunday afternoon during the investigation into the shooting, the highway later partially then fully reopened.