From left to right: Honor Guard Sgt. Davis, Kent Police Chief Rafael Padilla, Kent Officers Sean Goforth, Jace Sloan and Beau Mattheis, Assistant Chiefs Eric Hemmen and Jarod Kasner. COURTESY PHOTO, Kent Police

From left to right: Honor Guard Sgt. Davis, Kent Police Chief Rafael Padilla, Kent Officers Sean Goforth, Jace Sloan and Beau Mattheis, Assistant Chiefs Eric Hemmen and Jarod Kasner. COURTESY PHOTO, Kent Police

3 Kent Police officers honored for heroic actions during bar shooting

Chaotic scene in July 2022 outside the Central Ave Pub that resulted in a murder charge

Three Kent Police officers recently were honored for the heroism they displayed during a chaotic shooting and murder scene in July 2022 that included an attack on them outside the Central Ave Pub.

Officers Sean Goforth, Jace Sloan and Beau Mattheis received state medals of honor during a May 5 ceremony in Olympia hosted by the Redmond-based nonprofit Behind the Badge Foundation.

“(The officers) received the state medal of honor for the courage and valor they demonstrated on July 2, 2022, while responding to a shooting at the Central Ave Pub,” Kent Police Chief Rafael Padilla said. “Several of our officers responded to the shooting, and collectively they did an incredible job under incredibly difficult circumstances, exposing themselves to potential risk of injury and/or death in an effort to save the victim’s life.”

The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office nominated the officers for the award. Kent Police confirmed the nomination.

“The award is given by the state of Washington through the State Office of the Attorney General,” Padilla said. “It is the highest award a law enforcement officer in this state can be given.”

Eleven other officers from across the state received the medals of honor during the ceremony. The event also honored four officers who died in the line of duty in the state in 2022.

King County prosecutors charged Rogelle M Harris, of Seattle, with first-degree murder for allegedly shooting Bobby E. Rodgers, 29, of Kent, once in the head at about 2 a.m. during a drive-by shooting into a crowded parking lot outside the Central Ave Pub at 1404 Central Ave. S.. The bar has since closed.

Paramedics transported Rodgers to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where he later died.

“In this case, the defendant was captured on multiple video cameras shooting a .45 caliber handgun numerous times from a vehicle into a crowd outside of a nightclub in Kent around closing time,” wrote Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Aubony Burns in charging papers. “It was fortunate only one person suffered fatal injuries from the defendant’s extreme indifference to human life and willingness to spray bullets into a crowd that night.”

Harris, 19 at the time of the shooting, has a pretrial court hearing on June 8 and a trial date of July 20, although that trial date could get pushed out, according to the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. Harris remains in custody at the King County Correctional Facility in Seattle.

According to charging papers, the owner of the Central Ave Pub and a regular disc jockey (DJ) celebrated their birthday together starting July 1, 2022 at the bar and invited approximately 5,000 friends and associates via social media. Rodgers was a close friend of the two and a regular patron at the bar. Four security guards were hired by the pub in anticipation of a large crowd. The pub has a maximum capacity of 117 people.

Once the pub filled up, security asked customers to line up along the covered outdoor sidewalk, south of the front door.

As the party went on, the number of guests increased, according to court documents. The pub parking lot and surrounding business and residential parking lots filled up. Party guests socialized in the parking lots and along Alder Lane. That led to several 911 calls about parking and noise complaints before shots were fired from a vehicle into the parking lot filled with people.

Medal of honor nomination

Burns, the prosecutor assigned to the murder case, submitted the medal of honor nomination paperwork to Padilla. Burns said after watching body worn camera videos from the Kent officers multiple times, she decided to nominate them.

“I’m writing today because I’ve seen something on BWV (body worn video) that needs to be seen by these officers’ chain of command,” Burns said in her Sept. 9, 2022 nomination letter. “The videos are something that you could never show the public, because of the graphic nature and tragedy captured on them, but is so striking in the heroism displayed that I am compelled to write you.

“The videos capture officers responding to a shooting that occurred at a crowded nightclub parking lot. An individual fired numerous shots into the crowd, striking and killing a man, and injuring a second. Two other individuals then pulled weapons and returned fire. Officers responded almost instantly; they were nearby when this occurred and heard the gunshots.”

Burns said the first two officers who ran into the crowd were met with what she can only describe as hostile chaos. One officer began rendering aid while the second provided cover protection for him. They were instantly attacked, and the covering officer had to physically remove a suspect that tried to stop the officer from rendering aid.

Another two officers quickly arrived to the melee; one assists with aid while the other provided protection from the angry and scared crowd closing in and fleeing through the area where officers were providing aid, Burns said.

“I struggle with words to describe this event, but these officers ran into what was essentially a mass shooting with multiple victims and shooters to try to save lives,” Burns said.

Burns said it all happened very quickly, but what stood out to her in watching and rewatching the videos was not just the courage these officers showed in trying to save a life, but also the trust they had in each other.

“That level of trust, knowing that their fellow officers had their backs and would protect them as they did CPR and tried to stop bleeding, their backs to the violence occurring around them, despite being outnumbered (and we would later learn outgunned), that level of trust was apparent and extraordinary to witness even on video,” she said.

Burns said she watched the videos from all the different angles before and after the medics arrived and the scene is secured.

“Those same officers who shielded and provided aid to a dying man do not take a break,” she said. “They do not go to their cars to catch their breath or wash the blood from their hands or process what they just experienced. They aren’t met with an on scene debrief from some professional trained to help them process the trauma they’ve just experienced. Instead, they immediately take further action, each picking up an investigative or scene security or scene processing task.

“They just kept going, kept giving, kept doing all they could to ensure the community was safe and that the integrity of the investigation was maintained. Because of their actions, we’ve been able to capture and charge the man that caused this violence and chaos.”

At the end of her letter, Burns summarized what she saw on the videos and the reasons Goforth, Sloan and Mattheis deserved to be honored.

“You will see courage, professionalism, calm under fire, and a team that clearly trusts each other with their lives,” Burns said. “They did all they could to save a man’s life despite the chaos of the shootings and despite being attacked while trying to do so.”

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