Olympia Washington: Unarmed black brothers shot by police officer after allegedly stealing beer

One of the men was seriously injured, though both are expected to survive

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The capital city of Washington state has echoed with the sounds of protest after two unarmed black men were shot and injured by a police officer after they allegedly stole beer from a store.

Hundreds of people marched through the centre of Olympia, surrounding the police headquarters, after the shooting of step-brothers Andre Thompson, 24, and Bryson Chaplin, 21. The officer who shot them is white.

Reports said that Mr Thompson is in a stable condition while Mr Chaplin was critically injured. Both are expected to survive Olympia’s first officer-involved shooting since 2012, reports said.

The protests over the shootings remained peaceful, and Olympia Mayor Stephen Buxbaum urged citizens in a statement to “not be reactive”.

The violent police encounter was sparked by a call from employees at a Safeway store around 1 am on Thursday, saying two men had tried to steal beer and threw the bottles at workers who approached them, said NBC.

“We are committed to helping our community work through this difficult circumstance and help us understand this tragic event,” Olympia Police Chief Ronnie Roberts said at news conference.

Officer Ryan Donald was among those who responded around 1 a.m. to a call from a Safeway, Roberts said. Employees said two men tried to steal beer and then threw the alcohol at workers who confronted the pair.

Officers split up to search for the suspects. Mr Donald encountered two men with skateboards who matched witnesses' descriptions of suspects and moments later he radioed in that shots had been fired, the police chief said.

“I believe one of them is hit, both of them are running,” Mr Donald said, on the audio recording released by police.

On the recording, Mr Donald tells dispatchers that one suspect “assaulted me with his skateboard”.

“I tried to grab his friend,” Mr Donald adds. “They're very aggressive, just so you know.”

Protesters in Olympia carried signs saying 'Black Lives Matter'

The police chief said that Mr Donald was not injured but that an officer “has the right to defend himself” if a suspect wields an object that could be used as a deadly weapon.

The men’s mother, spoke with KOMO Newsradio and said police came to her home after the shooting and informed her what had happened.

“Even if it was them, did they have to open fire and shoot them? I mean, I heard one was shot in the chest. Was that necessary? I don't think so,” she said.