Judge Leighton seems to suspect a police coverup in police slaying of allegedly drunk driver
On June 15, 2011, Heilman was headed home from her shift with the Tacoma Police. At approximately 1:45 am, she stopped Papineau on suspicion of driving while intoxicated. She contacted a state trooper to process his arrest. While Heilman waited for the trooper, Papineau exited his truck holding a dark object. Heilman claims she thought the object was a handgun because she saw Papineau pick up a Luger just before he exited his truck. Heilman may have also claimed that Papineau shot at her, though she denies saying this. It is undisputed that Heilman shot at Papineau several times and that she hit him three times. He bled profusely.
Papineau was found with only his wallet in his hands. He was a few feet from the driver side door, near his truck bed. The door was open. A Norinco handgun was on the driver seat. Papineau and his truck bed were covered in blood, but his gun and truck interior were completely clean. Papineau was taken to the hospital, but died just after arrival. The angles of two of his wounds showed that he was facing to the left when was shot (as someone would be while stepping out of a driver side door). His BAC was .24 and he had cannabinoids in his system.
In her report and her subsequent depositions, Heilman claims she definitely saw Papineau pick up his gun, but does not know if he was still holding it when he exited his truck. She also does not know if Papineau shot at her. She claims that Papineau must have either put his gun down as he exited his truck or put it back in his truck after he was shot.
The facts outlined in Pierce County Detective Mark Merod’s subsequent application for a warrant to search Papineau’s truck were dramatically different than the facts described by the officer on the scene. That application claimed that Papineau fired several shots at Heilman, and that his gun was found on the ground next to him, rather than on the driver’s seat. Merod claims he got this information from Detective Tiffany, who in turn claims he got it from Heilman. In an email to the local press, Pierce County Public Information Officer Ed Troyer also claimed that Papineau shot at Heilman. Heilman has not explained why the facts in Merod’s application and Troyer’s email vary dramatically from the facts in her report and depositions.
Judy Papineau offers another theory. She admits that Brooks had a gun and that he always kept it hidden on the passenger seat. She alleges that Brooks did not touch his gun at any point during his encounter with Heilman. Instead, Brooks exited his truck holding only his wallet when Heilman shot him without warning. She insists that Heilman or another officer must have searched her husband’s truck after the shooting, found his gun, and then placed it on the driver’s seat to hide the fact that Heilman shot him without probable cause.
Tacoma Police Chief Richard McCrea reviewed the case and determined that Heilman’s actions were reasonable and within departmental policy.
Decision: No qi for Tacoma police officer Hannah Heilman.