PULLMAN, Wash. -- The Whitman County Prosecutors Office announced Friday it would not pursue criminal charges for an altercation that left a 41-year-old man with serious head injuries.
Doctor Dave Warner, 41, suffered the injuries during a confrontation involving five other people outside Adams Mall on Pullman’s College Hill in March 2013.
Prosecutors cited a lack of clear video surveillance evidence and inconsistent eyewitness testimony for the decision. Prosecutors said those circumstances prevent them from proving beyond reasonable doubt that an assault occurred.
Investigators pointed out video footage showed Warner and acquaintance Lawrence McDonald, 31, arriving in the parking lot. McDonald was highly intoxicated and ranting at other pedestrians, according to authorities. At that point, a confrontation ensued between McDonald and Robert Bean 22, Matt Cabanios-Soriano 22, Joshua Nantz, 23, and Madeline Fouts, 21.
Authorities said McDonald was seen moving aggressively toward the four individuals, at which time Warner grabbed him from behind to keep the peace. That is when Nantz either punched or shoved McDonald. McDonald and Warner both fell backwards.
Prosecutors said while Warner may have been kicked by Bean while on the ground, it is not shown on video. They determined his head injuries could have been caused by either hitting the pavement in the fall or by a kick.
Prosecutors addressed whether Nantz was acting in self-defense. But again, said they cannot prove anything beyond reasonable doubt with the evidence at hand.
“There were individuals who said that he was struck by one person or that he was struck by another person, and we know based on video evidence that nobody ever punched him particularly,” said Whitman County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Bill Druffel.
In order to convict someone of assault, a prosecutor must prove not only that a defendant pushed, punched, or kicked someone, but that the defendant was not acting in self-defense. And the prosecutor must prove these things beyond reasonable doubt.
Prosecutors said even if they could prove a push by Nantz toward McDonald is what caused Dr. Warner's fall, they could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that it was not in self defense, since McDonald was clearly the aggressor.
“They either fall back because of Dr. Warner's efforts to pull his friend back or keep his friend out of harms way or because his friend was pushed by someone or a combination of both. The evidence is unclear,” said Druffel.
With all of the factors in this case, officials determined they were unable to move forward with prosecution.
“There is just too much uncertainty, and that's not good enough for our standard in this office,” said Druffel.