Election 2020

Gunshots, fights, multiple arrests after protestors clash in downtown Olympia

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For the second Saturday in a row, protestors and counter protestors clashed in downtown Olympia, resulting in fights, gunshots, injuries and arrests.

The Olympia Police Department had prepared for a large disturbance downtown, after supporters of Donald Trump and counter protestors organized multiple events in Olympia. Washington State Patrol and the Thurston County Sheriff’s office lent troopers and deputies to the downtown area.

OPD declared the protest a riot around 1:30 p.m., and ordered everyone to disperse. However, many people stuck around, reportedly continuing activity police called “assaultive.”

On the Capitol Campus

According to a probable cause affidavit, at around 2 p.m. near the corner of 15th Avenue and Columbia Street, a man was shot in the abdomen. Someone drove the man to the hospital where surgery was performed.

Police obtained multiple videos from around the time of the shooting. In one of them, a man — who police believe to be 25-year-old Forest M. Machala — can be seen walking while manipulating an apparent gun in his hand. An audible gunshot is heard in the video. In another video, a gunshot is heard, and a man dressed in black falls to the ground, as though he was shot. Other people dressed in black run for cover. Machala is allegedly seen on video, a handgun clearly seen in his hand, according to police. People in the crowd shout, “You just shot somebody.”

After the alleged shooting, Machala was seen getting into his vehicle, where he was arrested by a WSP SWAT team. He had a Glock 9mm handgun in a holster at his waist — one round in the chamber and an additional seven in the magazine. The magazine could hold 10 bullets, according to court documents, meaning two were unaccounted for.

At the scene of the shooting, police found an unfired 9mm round on the ground. Police believe Machala’s gun may have jammed at the scene, so he cleared the jam by discarding one bullet (In court documents, police again referenced that Machala was seen in the video manipulating the gun in his hand, which investigators believe was to clear the jammed gun).

Police also found a trail and pool of blood from the victim, who required several hours of surgery.

At the same location, a second person could be seen firing a gun in a video. The person is unidentified, wearing all black and a ski mask. It’s uncertain from the video if anyone was struck by the second shooter. A spent .380 shell casing was found on the ground.

Machala appeared in Thurston County Superior Court Monday afternoon, where Judge Pro Tem Skip Houser ordered Machala be held on $50,000 bail, less than the $75,000 requested by the prosecution.

Deputy Prosecutor Scott Jackson noted that detectives were still actively investigating Saturday’s events.

Machala’s attorney, William Kirk said he believed authorities will find Machala acted in self-defense.

Five blocks north

Two people were arrested near Union Avenue and Capitol Way, after they allegedly fought with multiple Thurston County deputies in a SWAT team. The SWAT team was sent in after police gave multiple dispersal orders, according to court documents.

“Large homemade explosives, rocks, frozen water bottles and other items were being thrown at counter protestors and police,” read court documents.

SWAT team members approached a group of about 10 to 15 protestors, who held homemade shields, batons and baseball bats. A deputy “grabbed” a man by a backpack to arrest him. The man — who police believe was Charles S. Gaston, 38 — turned and allegedly started hitting the deputy with a baton. The baton was described as having protruding “metal daggers.” A fight ensued, and Gaston allegedly struck three deputies with the baton. A second suspect — reportedly identified as Thomas E. Johnson, 34 — allegedly shoved and punched two of the deputies. Both suspects were overpowered and arrested.

Gaston was charged with three counts of second-degree assault, malicious mischief and resisting arrest. He’s being held on $45,000 bail.

Johnson was charged with two counts of third-degree assault, criminal mischief and resisting arrest. He’s held on $10,000 bail.

Local law enforcement, on their social media pages, describe a chaotic, fluid situation Saturday. At one point, someone lit and threw a large explosive device. WSP bomb’s squad responded, and found that it was a commercial firework that failed to detonate.

“Had the device detonated, it could have caused significant injury,” reads a WSP tweet.

The groups dispersed at around 3:30 p.m.

THIS STORY WAS UPDATED WITH PHOTOS AT 8:00 PM DEC. 14, 2020.

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