Shoplifted burrito leads to officer-involved shooting

CENTRALIA, Wash. -- A suspected shoplifter was shot and killed after a scuffle with a police officer in Centralia Sunday. Police say the suspect had shoplifted a burrito, but it turns out the man was already wanted by police for a more serious crime.

The frozen burrito costs $1.99 and the store clerks say sometimes they give them away to folks who are hungry. But, Sunday the clerks at the Chevron on South Tower Avenue said they called police when someone heated a burrito and then walked out without paying for it.

Centralia police officer Ruben Ramirez and his K9 partner Lobo were first to arrive and spotted the shoplifter in the bank parking lot across the street. Ramirez reportedly asked for back-up after he realized the shoplifting suspect was the one they were looking for in connection with a knife attack in Centralia.

"I think it's important to understand this individual probably knew we were looking for him relative to an assault that occurred a couple of days earlier," said Centralia police chief Bob Berg.

Police say as Ramirez tried to make an arrest, the suspect resisted and the police dog was released to help. But the man was still able to reach for a handgun in his pocket.

"I believe it was a semi-automatic pistol," Berg said. "The dog went back for the arm as the gentleman was trying to bring it up and that's when officer Ramirez fired one round and shot and killed the suspect."

The store clerk involved had a different version of what happened. She said the man who was shot was not the one who stole the burrito, but an accomplice. Either way, when officer Ramirez arrived at the bank parking lot he had noticed the suspect was the one he'd been looking for in a previous assault.

Officer Ramirez is now on paid administrative leave while a team from five different sheriff offices looks at the shooting and whether it was justified.

The police chief says given the combative nature of the suspect and the fact he had a gun, Officer Ramirez was fortunate to have his K9 partner Lobo there to help him.

This is the second deadly officer-involved shooting in the last five months in Centralia. The incident involving a knife-wielding suspect in February was recently ruled as justified.