News

WSP trooper cleared of wrongdoing in shooting

After reviewing the material from more than two months of investigations, the Kitsap County Prosecutor’s Office recently decided that State Trooper Ron Kessler acted correctly when he shot and killed Rosa Hammer during a traffic stop in August.

The shooting occurred after Kessler stopped Hammer and her friend, Tessa Baskins, for speeding westbound on State Route 16 through Gorst. They were headed back home to Port Angeles after having spent the day in Burien.

While trying to search the car on suspicion of marijuana possession, Kessler and Hammer got into a struggle over her backpack. Hammer pulled a gun from the pack and shot the trooper in the hand, and he responded by shooting her three times in the torso, killing her.

Hammer was pronounced dead at the scene.

The autopsy report said Hammer had cannabanoids (the active ingredient in marijuana), amphetamine, methamphetamine, oxycodone (a painkiller), antihistamines, lidocaine, nicotine and caffeine in her system when she was killed.

“Trooper Kessler, in the course of making a lawful arrest, was confronted with a subject who refused to obey his commands, who resisted actively and who threatened with deadly force,” said Kitsap County Prosecuting Attorney Russell Hauge in a memorandum.

Statements taken from a number of witnesses, including Baskins and Hammer’s five-year-old daughter — who was in the car at the time — corroborate Kessler’s testimony that Hammer fired the first shot. They also agree that Kessler warned Hammer numerous times before he fired his weapon.

“It was a terrible tragedy,” Hauge said. “[However], Trooper Kessler’s actions were justifiable.”

Hammer’s father, Edward Hammer, said he was not satisfied with the findings of the report. He said he doesn’t understand how if the autopsy report said Rosa’s trigger finger was broken, she could have shot the officer.

“I’m a little upset,” Hammer said. “That report was just a justification for the trooper to kill my daughter.”

Hammer said he is still digesting the 395-page investigation report, and hasn’t decided whether or not to pursue the matter further. Although it is rare for someone to request an independent review after the prosecutor’s office has made a decision, Hauge said Hammer would be free to initiate a civil suit if he wanted too.

“It’s all in the future,” Hammer said. “It’s too early to decide anything or do anything.”

The State Patrol is conducting its own departmental review of the report to make sure that Kessler, who is still recovering from his wounds, didn’t break any rules during the incident. State Patrol spokesman Cpt. Eric Robertson said that the investigation is standard procedure.

“The fact that the shooting was declared justifiable by the prosecutor’s office is positive” he said.

Robertson added: “Troopers being confronted with hostile people is rare.”

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus

Read the latest Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Sep 19 edition online now. Browse the archives.