Protests in downtown Olympia leads to clash, gunfire, one arrest

Details emerge about actions of people on both sides based on bystanders' mobile-phone videos

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Authorities are still investigating a clash between protestors in downtown Olympia Saturday — a clash which lead to alleged gunfire and one arrest.

Christopher M. Guenzler, 27, was charged with one count of second-degree assault while armed with a firearm and is being held on $50,000 bail. During a hearing in Thurston County Superior Court Monday afternoon, Deputy Prosecutor Scott Jackson said investigation into the incident may result in additional charges against people at the protest.

Court documents filed against Guenzler describe a relatively chaotic scene. Multiple members of a protest supporting President Donald Trump and unsuccessful gubernatorial candidate Loren Culp clashed with counter-protestors clad in black. A press release from the City of Olympia states that the protest began on the Capitol Campus, and the clash occurred at the corner of Capitol Way and 11th Avenue.

“The melee involved up to 200 people armed with bats, bottles, rocks, chemical sprays and guns,” reads the press release.

Police called in additional assistance from the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office, however the fight was over before support arrived. Counter-protestors continued to demonstrate throughout downtown Olympia and were followed by pro-Trump demonstrators. However, no additional fights broke out other than exchanged insults.    

 An Olympia police officer was notified of a gunshot at around 1:45 p.m. from a person who was watching digital live feed of the protests. The video depicted a person among the pro-Trump protestors — later reportedly identified as Guenzler — pointing a gun at a group of people. The video captures what sounded like a gunshot, although the camera’s view was obstructed at the time the gun was fired.

That same afternoon, Guenzler was located in downtown Olympia, and an officer spoke with him. The officer took a handgun and can of pepper spray Guenzler had on him during the interview.

According to court documents, Guenzler said protestors he identified as “antifa” rushed the pro-Trump protestors. He said one swung a fist at him, and he in turn pistol-whipped the person. Three people began to approach him, and he said he drew his gun to stop their advance. He then said he was hit by pepper spray and he holstered his gun.

As the interview was still ongoing, a second police officer showed the interviewing officer another video of the incident — one that reportedly showed Guenzler draw the gun and fire.

Guenzler was nervous during the interview, court documents indicate. He allegedly asked an officer if “the video was of him.”

“I asked Guenzler wouldn’t he know if he pulled the trigger of his gun? He stated he would know but he knew he did not have his finger on the trigger. I asked Guenzler why he was worried if he knew his finger was not on the trigger. He advised he was nervous and wanted to end the taped statement,” reads an officer’s report.

After combing through social media, police believe a person may have been injured in the shooting, although no one has come forward and injuries are not believed to be life-threatening.

Guenzler was arrested and transported to the Thurston County Jail.

Deputy Prosecutor Jackson said during a hearing Monday that the clash was still under investigation and more charges may stem from the melee.

If Guenzler posts bail, Judge Carol Murphy ordered that he surrender all firearms and that he not live in a house that contains any firearms. He has an arraignment hearing set for 9 a.m. Dec. 22.

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