Two sons shot in the back by police: A mother’s cry for justice

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Editor’s note: I’ve corrected the original title, “Two sons shot in the chest by police,” on learning from Lisa Ganser, a friend of Crystal Chaplin’s family who has seen André and Bryson’s wounds, that the original police report was wrong: All their bullet wounds are in the back. They were running away from, not facing, the police officer, Ryan Donald, when he repeatedly shot them.

by Crystal Chaplin

Crystal Chaplin’s sons André and Bryson
Crystal Chaplin’s sons André and Bryson

Olympia, Washington – It was a nice day in May 2015. It was dry outside and both my sons, André and Bryson, decided they were going to skateboard at the local skate park on Cooper Point Road. The park isn’t far from where we lived. Andre is 24; Bryson is 21.

They left late that afternoon on May 20, 2015. Later that night – or should I say early that morning on May 21 – my daughter came home saying someone had just been shot down on Cooper Point Road. She was frantic, asking if her brothers were home. I told her they hadn’t come home yet.

We stayed up the rest of the night waiting for them to come home but they never arrived. When morning came, there was a knock on the door. It was the detectives from the police department saying that both my sons, André and Bryson were shot in the chest by a police officer. (This was wrong. All the bullet wounds are in their backs; they were running from, not facing, the officer who shot them. – ed.)

I learned that my sons were in critical condition. I froze. I remember dropping to the floor as my heart felt like it was ripped out of my chest. I cried and I felt sick to my stomach. I prayed, “God, please don’t take them from me. Please.” I could not stop thinking, why would a police officer shoot my sons? Why?

We were told where my sons were being treated. When we arrived at the hospital, I was not allowed to go in to see my sons. An officer was in the lobby near the ICU wanting to question my daughter during this time of mourning.

This is André in August 2014 about to leave home for a job interview.
This is André in August 2014 about to leave home for a job interview.

After they’d informed my family on what purportedly happened, I immediately said, “No more questions; I want to see my sons right now!” I was finally permitted to see my sons after several minutes. Walking into the ICU room, seeing my youngest son unconscious and surrounded by machines, wires connected all over his body and on a respirator to help keep him alive was something I wasn’t prepared for. It was frightening and overwhelming.

I looked over to the side and saw a police officer calmly sitting there. That upset me. I wondered why he was even there, writing on his little pad. I still didn’t know exactly what happened or if my son would live.

Doctors eventually told me he was stable but critical. I asked where my other son was located. At first no one knew where he was, but finally we were told he was about 30-45 minutes away from where we were, at St. Peter’s. Prior to leaving for Tacoma General Hospital, we made sure Bryson was stable.

I felt numb when we left. I was torn with worry I had to leave one son alone who I knew needed me. I was worried because I was headed to see André. Again, I wasn’t prepared for what I was about to see. I was scared, so I prayed, “Please God, please leave him with us, please.”

Finally I arrived at André’s room. The thrill of seeing him alive overwhelmed me. I was so happy to see him awake. I could see the pain and worry in his eyes. The first thing he asked was, “How is my brother?”

I told him and he began to cry. I sat with him, broken hearted. His unselfish love told me to return to be with Bryson. “Mom, I’ll be okay. I am more worried about my brother. Bryson needs you.” I kissed him and told him I loved him very much. I told him, “I’ll be back soon, baby. I love you.” He responded, “I love you too mom.”

Bryson is in silhouette at Frye Cove Park in Olympia in April 2015, a month before he was shot and paralyzed. Crystal and her family loved Olympia for its peacefulness and natural beauty.
Bryson is in silhouette at Frye Cove Park in Olympia in April 2015, a month before he was shot and paralyzed. Crystal and her family loved Olympia for its peacefulness and natural beauty.

When we arrived back at St. Peter’s Hospital, Bryson remained unconscious as they prepared him to be airlifted to Seattle’s Harborview Hospital. I stayed overnight at the hospital with Bryson. I never left his side, talking to him, telling him constantly how much I loved him.

“Bry, Bry, open your eyes. Baby, fight! Baby, you’re strong. I’m here, and mommy’s not going anywhere.” It was the next day before Bry opened his eyes.

Family had flown in from Rhode Island, Florida and California to be with our family because what was happening was unbelievable. Nothing like this had ever happened to our family. We drove back and forth between hospitals until André was released a couple days later.

My brother, my oldest son, my sons’ father, my daughter and myself would take turns staying with Bryson at the hospital because we didn’t want to leave him alone. One of us had to be with him at all times. The drive back and forth from Seattle was so stressful and overwhelming.

I was afraid for André and Bryson and remain so to this day. Bryson is now a paraplegic with a bullet in his back from the Olympia police officer who opened fire on him and his brother. When I learned that he couldn’t walk and saw the x-ray that showed the bullet in his spine, my hurt turned to anger. In my heart, I knew the police had lied.

While in the hospital after Bryson was airlifted to Seattle, I got a call from the Olympia police chief asking me how I was doing and telling me he was sorry for what happened. I wasn’t really paying him much attention because I didn’t want to hear what he had to say.

I remember him asking me to call him because he would like to talk with me. I immediately thought, hmm, what does he want of me? About a month later, Bryson was released from the hospital. We tried to make it as comfortable as possible for him because he had to use a wheelchair.

This is Bryson at Harborview Hospital in Seattle in June, three weeks after the shooting.
This is Bryson at Harborview Hospital in Seattle in June, three weeks after the shooting.

This changed everyone’s lives, my life and the entire family’s life. We had to endure the media and ignorant people making nasty comments, saying my sons must be thugs, gang members – plain ignorance on their part. My sons are sweet, loving guys with big hearts.

After a couple months, the investigation was complete in August 2015. It was announced that both my sons, André and Bryson, would be charged with assault on the Olympia police officer.

This is despite the fact that the same police officer had previously been disciplined and has since been involved in other questionable incidents. Yet he would go free.

That officer tried to kill both of my sons. I truly believe the officer not only shot Bryson multiple times but he also wanted to kill André so there wouldn’t be any witness to his brutal and reckless attack on my sons.

This officer tried to cover up the truth. He claimed my sons tried to attack him with a skateboard. Yet he did not have a single mark on him. My sons’ clothing and bodies did not have any gunshot residue on them. It was impossible for them to be as close as he claimed they were when he shot them.

My youngest son was hit with bullets multiple times and my other son was shot at three times and hit once. I have never heard of a police officer chasing down a suspect miles away from where beer was attempted to be stolen. Instead two young Black men, my sons, were gunned down miles away with bullets flying wildly everywhere.

When I heard the charges, I was livid. This can’t be happening. The first court date was nerve-racking. Media was outside and inside the courtroom.

Three days after André’s release from the hospital, he insisted on visiting Bryson, who was still at Harborview Hospital. Crystal writes: “André was in so much pain, but he had to see his brother. They cried and hugged each other for a long time. Then we brought them both outside for some sun and fresh air. Brotherly love!”
Three days after André’s release from the hospital, he insisted on visiting Bryson, who was still at Harborview Hospital. Crystal writes: “André was in so much pain, but he had to see his brother. They cried and hugged each other for a long time. Then we brought them both outside for some sun and fresh air. Brotherly love!”

There was silence when my son was wheeled into the courtroom. I don’t think the media and people in the community believed my son Bryson was paralyzed but were forced to confront it.

I have nightmares of an officer in a police car driving down that road as I picture my sons running through the woods trying not to get hit by the officer’s bullets fired into the darkness and the dark woods.

Every day since Bryson and André came home from the hospital, I see the pain in their eyes. And I see the physical pain Bryson goes through every day. I wish I could take it all away. I feel helpless.

Where is the justice for so many men, women and children when so many have been shot and killed by police officers all over the U.S.? When is this going to stop? When is change going to come?

I thank God every day that my sons are alive. I know so many other mothers aren’t as lucky as me. I pray every day for the mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, who have lost a loved one because of police brutality.

As a mother. I stand with the mother of Jackie Salyers, the mother of Che Taylor, the mother of Daniel Covarrubias to demand justice for our children. Looking back through history, it seems like it’s happening all over again and everyone is just blind to what’s really going on.

Where is the justice for so many men, women and children when so many have been shot and killed by police officers all over the U.S.? When is this going to stop? When is change going to come?

As I write these words with tears in my eyes, my chest is so heavy and it aches like I’m living those days again. I relive the nightmare every day of being told my boys were shot. I live this every day. A mother should never have to hear those words or, even worse, be told that their child has died. My heart goes out to the families that have lost a loved one to this madness.

My family will never be the same again; my sons will never be the same again. I want justice for my sons Bryson and André. The police officer should be held accountable for using excessive force, for attempted murder and never be able to work in law enforcement or be able to carry a firearm again.

Many people have asked me how I’m doing or how I’m feeling. Looking at my sons, I cry inside every day. They didn’t deserve what happened to them. I cry in private because I don’t want them to see my tears. I was protective of them before, and now I am overly protective.

Last fall, Donovan Rivers, right, a candidate for Congress, and other activists organized a large March for Mothers – watch the video below – and rally at Sylvester Park in downtown Olympia, demanding justice for André and Bryson and all victims of police violence.
Last fall, Donovan Rivers, right, a candidate for Congress, and other activists organized a large March for Mothers – watch the video below – and rally at Sylvester Park in downtown Olympia, demanding justice for André and Bryson and all victims of police violence.

Our lives have changed forever since that officer tried his hardest to kill my sons, but God had other plans for my boys. The bullet wounds and scars they needlessly suffered are proof that God is not ready for them. He sent down his Army of Angels to protect them as they ran through the woods in the darkness for their lives. I am so grateful for the Angels.

My experience as a mother of two sons who survived and lived through this traumatic ordeal has impacted my entire family. I can truly say I am blessed to have them with me. If it wasn’t for the work of God and his Angels I would be mourning both my sons. I can only imagine what they went through that horrible night on May 21, 2015. That day will forever be etched in our brains and hearts.

Crystal Chaplin
Crystal Chaplin

On April 19, 2016, I attended a City Council meeting in Olympia, Washington, my first time speaking out about my sons to the mayor and council members. I learned that the officer, Ryan Donald, who tried to kill my sons was involved in another incident: He brutalized a person in downtown Olympia. And also, back in February of 2016, he was involved in another incident, when a disabled man died in police custody. This makes three times, including the shooting of my sons.

This officer has shown nothing but reckless behavior and is a threat to the community. I am so afraid for sons and my family. What if we cross this officer’s path? What would happen? Would he again say he feared for his life and say we came after him and open fire on us? This officer needs to be fired and held accountable for his action.

I only seek … justice for André and Bryson.

Crystal Chaplin is a 52-year-old mother of four, three sons and a daughter, and grandmother of 11. Born in a small town in Rhode Island, she and her family moved to Olympia in 2012 and loved the peacefulness and beauty of the state of Washington until May 21, 2015, when her sons were almost killed by an Olympia police officer and their lives changed forever. Now she is on a journey to fight for justice for her sons, who still struggle with physical and mental pain, and for all the loved ones who have been lost to police brutality. She can be reached at msrenee2016@gmail.com.

14 COMMENTS

  1. I want to thank Bay View for running my story, I appreciate this so much. Mary Ratcliff I want to thank you personally for reading my story and getting it out there for all to read this is truly a blessing, Thank you Again God Bless, Much Love Crystal Chaplin

  2. Hello Crystal, My name is Cheryl Jones I live in San Antonio. I read you story and my heart and prayers goes up for you and your babies. I know you all lives are changed forever for what those cowards cops did to your babies. My son Marquise Jones who was 23 years old when he was brutily shot in the back and killed by an S.A.P.D officer Robert Encina as my son was running away from a situation that accord with this cop and the driver my son and daughter was in the car with. You can go to facebook and google Justice for Marquise Jones aka skinny Blak and read more up on his story but I just wanted to reach out to you and let know I understand just what you’ve been through because the police did the same thing to me and my family. It’s been 2 years and we still fighting for JUSTICE this happen February 28 ,2014 but I WILL NOT REST UNTIL THAT COWARD COP IS OFF THE STREETS. THIS MAN LIED ABOUT MY SON ENTIRE MURDER AND TO MATTER WRONG THIS OFFICER HAS BEEN IN MULTIPLE INCIDENTS AS WELL AS ANOTHER DEATH CASE 9 MONTH BEFORE HE KILLED MY SON AND STILL TO THIS DAY HE IS WALKING AROUND FREE ITD UNBELIEVABLE BUT THAT A LITTLE OF MY SON STORY AND YOU CAN REACH OUT TO ME ANY TIME. GOD BLESS YOU AND YOUR FAMILY YALL WILL GET JUSTICE FOR YOUR BABY BOYS.

  3. I know how hard it is to fight for Justice Who protects us from Police Officers who are Murderers n are Violent acting in a behavior that wrecklessy dangerously n deadly on LIVES what happened to RESPECT LIFE not only your Officers Lives Our Lives Too The Publics Livrs !!!!Im From Denver Co and the Denver Police Dept had operation plan the Day Of July 2, 2014 to make arrest on warrants well I heard of a officer shot. a youngman at a park n i was worryied cas i always worried for My Son he just did alot of time in juvee n cops always harassed him never left him alone so i found out they shot n killed a 35yr old man my heart felt relieved so i got a call from my X husband in a panick crying have you heard from Ryan i daid No y he said he was getting phone calls on his way home from work saying Ryans been shot n i told him to calm down that wasnt Ryan it was some 35yr old guy n he said are u sure n i said im sure im watching the News rite now n he said Ryan was going to his Best Friends Funeral today i said i know i talked to him last nite hed bn really sad about the death of his Best Friend !!!And i was still on the phone with My X n still in front of the T.V. they announced on the News Their was a second officer involded shooting,at a Funeral Home outside the parking lot 20yr old Ryan Ronquillo is dead !!!! That day My Son Died I Died too My life n our family’s. Life will never be the same Ryan was the middle child of 3. A older sister n younger brother who suffer everyday missing their Brother N My X is having heart problems he doesnt care no more he just wants to die n b with his Son he says! N Me Ryans Mom My Life is gone a piece that was my everythg my sunshine my world im angry how nothing is bn done to these 4officerswho shot N Killed My Baby faces nothing n im left facing i wud never wish on anybody n left with everythg u will never get over but left to FIGHT A CORRUPTION IN THE POLICE DEPT who took My Son Away From Me BUT I MADE A PROMISE TO MY SON AS I WATCHED THEM BURY HIM I KNEW I WOULD NEVER EVER SEE HIS HANDSOME FACE OR HEAR HIS VOICE SAY I LOVE YOU MOM OR HIS TOUCH HIS SMELL EVERYTHG THAT MADE HIM WHO I LOVED WITH ALL MY HEART N SOUL I PROMISED HIM I WILL FIGHT TILL THE DAY I DIE TO KEEP HIS NAME ALIVE I WILL TELL THE WORLD WHAT THESE DENVER OFFICERS DID TO MY SON I WILL NEVER LET THEM DESTROY US WE LOVE YOU RYAN NICHOLAS. RONQUILLO. REST IN PARADISE TILL WE MEET AGAIN 7/12/93- 7/2/14 ,
    “JUSTICE FOR RYANRONQUILLO FACEBOOK”

  4. Thank you so much for sharing your experience, for speaking Truth to Power, Crystal. i'm so glad that Andre and Bryson survived. I'm so grateful for the BayView National Black Press and this is the perfect place for Crystal's story to be told.

    Also, Mary, thank you for saying that Bryson was shot in the back, i counted the bullet holes. i believe that Andre was actually shot in the chest. No matter where they were shot, shooting them WAS COMPLETELY wrong. attempted murder by a cop with a track record of misconduct and abusing Force. and the olympia police Force seems to have a lot of officers doing this, assaulting folks then charging the victims with assault.

    i'm in solidarity with the Chaplin-Bryson family. i love them! thanks again Crystal for telling your story. your voice is so powerful.

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  6. I noticed you failed to mention in your emotional plea for sympathy for you sons that it was they who were stealing beer from a store and were videoed throwing a case of beer at the female clerk as they exited the store which is the reason the police officers were called as a result. Then those sons of yours were far from the sweet innocent boys which you made them out to be. Maybe it should have been the mothers of the police officers whose sons were there to defend the public such as the store clerk from sons such as yours. It was then when your sons attempted to beat the police using their skate boards. Your sons clearly were the criminals that society needsprotection from. Do you think that most open minded people are not thankful that the police protected the innocent you know like the innocent clerk trying to make a living while your grown sons are out stealing and riding skate boards. Let's remember they aren't 12. I am sorry for you as a mother but clearly your sons didn't care for you or their sister when they were out stealing and assaulting innocent store clerks, not to mention the police officer that came to defend the public from your children. All lives matter and maybe you should have done a bit more time teaching that truth to your sons instead of allowing them to harm others. I have no doubt when the jury hears all the facts your sons will get what they so richly deserve.

  7. Wilbur, you are a Class One a**hole, and an Ignorant.
    You have ZERO information on the facts in this case, and blindly accept the lies and protections that the Brotherhood called 'Police', perpetrate. Assumably, you are not black or a person of color yourself (which I am neither), you have no inkling of the reality they live. It is not the same world of freedoms and non-oppression that you and I live in. Officer Ryan Donald lied about the facts regarding what happened that fateful night in the dark. He did it to protect his own ass, and the police protected their 'brother'…the shoddy investigation, evidence-gathering, and the lies and corruption which started immediately upon their arrival on the scene. The facts around the beer in the store, you are also skewing….in terms of the 'assault'. There was no 'assault'.
    And theft in NO WAY justifies tracking down, and SHOOTING TO KILL, two young men. They did not use their skateboards as weapons, and if you'd been at the trial for these last 8 weeks, as many of us have, you might know something about that. The case would fall apart before your eyes, and you would wake up to the truth of this situation, which was all about lies.
    Don't You DARE say to this mother (and btw: Happy Mother's Day Crystal…your boys are ALIVE!!) that she hasn't acted in the most gracious manner through this entire travesty of justice, and DON'T YOU DARE utter such ugly, venomous things about her sons, who you know not a f****ing thing about.
    DON'T YOU dare…..Wilbur.

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