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No charges in ‘especially tragic’ killing of former Marine by Washington sheriff’s deputy

Franklin County deputy (Franklin County Sheriff's Office/Released)

Dante Jones’ death was tragic, but it was the only way a Franklin County deputy could keep from being killed, Prosecutor Shawn Sant has ruled.

Nearly a year and a half after Franklin County Sheriff’s Deputy Cody Quantrell shot and killed the former U.S. Marine, Sant found the shooting was justified, according to a release issued Friday night.

The shooting followed a nearly half hour of Jones playing what appeared to be a game of cat and mouse with two deputies and a sergeant on icy and foggy roads in northern Franklin County.

A pursuit where Jones allegedly tried to “brake check” the deputy to make him hit his Honda Civic.

While this was going on, Jones had a level of methamphetamine in his system to trigger “violent and irrational behavior,” the report said.

“Mr. Jones turned a routine traffic stop into a deadly assault against law enforcement officers,” Sant said. “His vehicle was used as a deadly weapon as he attempted to ram patrol vehicles. Mr. Jones used his car as a deadly weapon when he attempted to drive off with Deputy Quantrell halfway inside the car. Deputy Quantrell was at risk of serious injury or death at the time he discharged his duty weapon.”

Sant’s conclusion comes more than a year after the Regional Special Investigations Unit wrapped up its investigation of the Nov. 18, 2019, shooting.

“This case is especially tragic as the life of a military veteran was taken by another veteran,” Sant wrote. “Many veterans return home with injuries often not seen but manifest to their family and friends.”

The SIU pulls officers from local police agencies to investigate officer-involved shootings in Benton, Franklin and Walla Walla counties.

Sant said he wanted to collect evidence, ask questions and give the forensic pathologist a chance to review the evidence found by the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab.

Former Marine

Jones grew up in Othello and also spent time in the Tri-Cities after his mother disappeared when he was 15, the report showed.

He served two deployments with the Marines in Jordan and Syria.

After leaving the military, Jones lived in Arizona with his father. He moved to Washington state eight months before he was killed.

Friends said he still would visit his grandmother in Othello.

At the time he died, a friend said in a Facebook post that he was a “kind soul and spirit” who was let down by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the healthcare system after serving his country.

Family and friends told SIU investigators that Jones was deeply affected by what he saw overseas, including the death of fellow soldiers and the bodies of children.

Veterans Affairs doctors were treating Jones, but the trauma left him with problems being able to function in society, including difficulty in holding down a job at a hardware store or a restaurant, said the report.

A former roommate said Jones was ‘pro-cop’ and supportive of police. He was surprised to learn Jones had been killed in a confrontation with officers.

His only other trouble with police was a trespassing incident 10 years earlier involving a damaged fence in Pasco.

Friends told investigators that Jones had a drinking problem, and a former girlfriend said she believed he had used drugs before switching to alcohol.

Night of the shooting

Sant’s report tells a similar account to the special investigation report. On the night of the shooting, Sgt. Gordon Thomasson, Deputy Drew Gardner and Deputy Cody Quantrell responded to a call on West Fir Road in a rural part of the county.

While they were searching in the area shortly after 3 a.m., a Honda Civic sped past Thomasson’s patrol SUV going 82 mph in a 55-mph zone on Taylor Flats Road.

Thommasson lost sight of the car before he could get turned around, but he believed it could be the same car they were looking for, and he noted the driver honked as he was passing.

As they began searching for it, Thomasson spotted it at a Taylor Flats road intersection. As he got closer, the car sped off again.

He began following the car as it drove on Route 170, but hadn’t turned on his lights yet.

Quantrell and Gardner took over following the car at 3:18 a.m. and they activated their emergency lights.

As they followed, Jones would hit the brakes suddenly in an attempt to cause Quantrell to crash into the car. Sant noted both deputies made the same observation.

They continued to follow Jones, and while he slowed to highway speeds, the Civic didn’t stop.

Then at 3:22 a.m., Thomasson called off the chase because of the fog. At nearly the same time, Jones stopped the car and then put the car into reverse until he stopped next to Quantrell’s driver’s side door.

The shooting

Quantrell pulled his gun and stepped out, opening the Civic’s passenger door and ordering Jones, who was alone, to show his hands and that he was under arrest.

Jones was looking at him, but said nothing, Quantrell told investigators. The deputy crawled into the car with the intention of grabbing the keys to shut off the Civic’s engine.

He was halfway inside when Jones put the car into gear and started to drive, said the report.

When the car started pulling forward Quantrell said he became pinned and feared he would be dragged under the car.

Before the deputy fell out of the car, he fired four of the 15 rounds in his pistol, said the report.

The badly wounded Jones drove a half mile before his car veered into an orchard off Sagehill Road. The deputies followed, and after putting him in handcuffs, tried to stop the bleeding by applying pressure and tourniquets, said the report.

Jones said nothing at the scene or in the ambulance. He died on his way to the hospital.

Quantrell was treated for an injured hand and scraped knee.

Consistent

While some people have questioned whether the evidence matched Quantrell’s description, Sant told the Herald the physical evidence shows Jones was shot through an open door or a window.

The passenger’s side window was found intact, and rolled up when officers caught up to the car in the orchard.

All four shots came from the same direction, and no damage was found to the outside of the car.

In addition, Sant said Quantrell’s injuries were consistent with falling from a moving car.

The other lingering question concerned the shell casings. Three were found on the road, run over by passing traffic, and one was in the car.

Sant said they may have bounced on the door frame, or been caught on Quantrell’s clothing and fell onto the ground when he fell out of the car.

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