Internal investigation materials from the Centralia Police Department have shed light on the department’s decision to fire Officer Phil Reynolds in December for the second time.
In addition to being one of four officers accused of failing to provide timely response to a domestic violence call in June, Reynolds was accused of failing to properly investigate a potential vehicular assault domestic violence incident several months later, in September 2021.
Reynolds had been the primary officer for a vehicle-versus-pedestrian crash that occurred in the 1700 block of Cooks Hill Road on Sept. 11, where a man driving a Toyota Camry towing a utility trailer ran over his 39-year-old girlfriend and left the scene before police arrived.
Police issued an alert for officers to attempt to locate the driver and a sergeant told Reynolds to document the incident and forward it to the department’s detective division, according to Centralia Police Department investigative documents obtained by The Chronicle.
Reynolds interviewed witnesses at the scene and then interviewed the victim, who had been transported to the hospital “in severe pain” with multiple injuries.
During that interview with the victim, Reynolds reportedly displayed a demeanor and “lack of empathy” toward the victim that Police Chief Stacy Denham later called “appalling,” according to investigation documents.
“There’s a mountain of evidence supporting this case involving domestic violence and that the victim is in incredible pain” wrote Denham in a letter sent to Reynolds in December notifying him of the investigation findings. “As the victim is in the emergency room, potentially fighting for her life, after being run over by a trailer and assaulted, he uses this time to make what appears to be jokes and make light of the situation.”
A transcript of the recording shows Reynolds asked the victim if her fight with her boyfriend was about “any one thing in particular, like bills, booze, broads, kids, overdue library book?” and repeatedly asked the victim “do you believe you were the victim of a crime?” despite the victim having no background in law or criminal proceedings.
In a notice of investigation findings sent to Reynolds in December, Denham called Reynolds’ line of questioning during that interview “not only discourteous but completely disrespectful.”
The victim also gave information about cigarettes being involved in the fight with her boyfriend, but Reynolds did not ask follow up questions about that information.
Another detective later learned the suspect apparently burned the victim with cigarettes during their fight in the car, according to investigation documents.
When later questioned by a sergeant why he didn’t ask about the cigarettes, Reynolds reportedly said, “Well, it wasn’t an investigation about cigarettes.”
When asked if it was possible the victim was talking about being burned by a cigarette during a fight, Reynolds said, “It’s possible that he made an animatronic cigarette monster that attacked her. A lot of things are possible. I had no clue what was going on.”
Reynolds reportedly left a request with emergency room staff for the victim’s medical records before leaving the hospital.
Shortly after he left, Reynolds reportedly canceled the alert regarding the suspect and changed the title of the incident from “vehicular assault/domestic violence” to “family dispute” — a lesser offense. He then filed an “information-only report” with no instructions for his supervisor regarding the next steps for the investigation, according to investigation documents.
Reynolds also did not complete a state collision report, which is required in vehicle accidents resulting in an injury.
With nothing in the case file indicating followup was needed, the investigation was tabled.
The premature end to that investigation went unnoticed until the victim put in a request a couple weeks later for a separate patrol, citing concerns that her boyfriend would come back.
That request alerted Centralia Police Sergeant Dave Clary of the case. When looking at Reynolds’ report of the incident, Clary reportedly saw that the investigation was incomplete and brought it to Commander Paul Evers’ attention.
Evers reportedly reviewed the case and also determined the investigation hadn’t been completed, according to Clary’s investigation report.
The case was reopened and Evers filed a complaint against Reynolds. Clary was then instructed to complete an internal investigation into Reynolds’ handling of the Sept. 11 incident to determine whether Reynolds violated department policy.
The detective who completed the investigation into the Sept. 11 incident ultimately referred felony hit-and-run charges to the Lewis County Prosecutor’s Office.
The prosecutor’s office declined to file charges against the driver because, according to the detective’s investigation, the driver stopped after hitting the victim and the victim then told the driver to leave.
But none of that information was included in Reynolds’ investigation.
When asked by Clary why he didn’t forward the case to detectives, Reynolds stated “detectives don’t take cases” — despite evidence that Reynolds himself had recently forwarded other cases to detectives, according to investigation documents.
“Your actions concerning this case tell me that you fail to appreciate the severity of domestic violence cases, and your choice to not properly investigate them is neglectful and intolerable,” said Denham in a formal disciplinary letter sent to Reynolds on Dec. 6.
When the Sept. 11 incident occurred, Reynolds was already under investigation for his alleged failure to provide timely response to a domestic violence call in June.
Reynolds was reportedly on duty and inside the Centralia police station when Lewis County Communications broadcast a call for service at 11:51 a.m., according to internal investigation documents. The call was assigned to Officer Jocelyn Giammalva, who later said that she requested aid from the other officers on duty.
During an interview with Commander Andy Caldwell as part of the internal investigation into the June 26 incident, Giammalva said she remembered doing a search on the subjects involved in the call and seeing the male suspect had multiple warrants, including a domestic violence (DV) warrant.
“So I remember bringing that up to the group saying … ‘Hey, when you guys are done with whatever you’re doing can we — this is what I have. I have an order between so-and-so. This person has a couple warrants, one of them being DV. When you guys have time, can we do this as a group?” Giammalva told Caldwell, according to a transcript of the interview included in the investigation documents.
Video footage from the police station shows Reynolds carrying a propane tank and other equipment through the station, which officers said was for the crew’s pizza lunch they were having that day, according to investigation documents. He is also shown putting items into the refrigerator and walking to and from the break area.
When asked if he recalled any discussion about responding to the domestic violence call, Reynolds said, “Oh, there may have been one, but I don’t remember it, no.”
Regarding the call in general, Reynolds said, “I may not have been aware of the call. I may have judged it wasn’t in need of immediate response. It’s hard to say.”
During the interview, Caldwell told Reynolds that the Centralia Police Department’s policy regarding domestic violence calls “is that all domestic violence calls are treated as if they’re real, and respond as soon as practical.”
Reynolds responded, “Looking back, I see how different decisions could’ve been made. I don’t see neglect in it.”
He clarified, “I believe that there is room for judgment based on the fact that it was an anonymous (reporting party) to start with, and then based on the fact that it was secondhand info. So, yes, all domestic violences are real, but some are more real than others. Yesterday, I went to one where we have firsthand information from a guy who's saying, ‘This is happening to me right now. I need the police to get here,’ and I think that you and I can both agree that's different than an anonymous person saying, ‘This was happening a few minutes ago,’ and then a secondhand party saying, ‘I got wind of this.’”
Reynolds was placed on a 30-day suspension on Nov. 4 and his employment was officially terminated on Dec. 17.
This marks Reynolds’ second termination from the Centralia Police Department. He was previously terminated in March 2012 for a long list of alleged policy violations — including allegations of excessive use of force — but was rehired with backpay in May 2014 following arbitration, which is a process for officers to appeal disciplinary decisions through a private arbitrator.
The arbitrator’s decision in Reynolds’ case was final and no further appeal could be made, according to previous Chronicle reporting.
Prior to his March 2012 termination, Reynolds had already faced serious reprimands, including a two-week, unpaid suspension the previous July after an internal investigation found he excessively Tased multiple people under questionable circumstances and later lied about it, according to previous Chronicle reporting.
Reynolds’ has already taken steps towards appealing his most-recent termination via arbitration.
As of his December 2021 termination, Reynolds had four Brady disclosures — letters to the prosecutor’s office disclosing that an officer has a sustained complaint of dishonesty on their record — attached to his name, according to Denham.
The state Criminal Justice Training Commission (CJTC), which handles training and certification of peace officers in Washington, is currently reviewing Reynolds’ case file to determine whether there is probable cause to deny or revoke his police certification.
If CJTC finds probable cause, Reynolds would have 60 days from the time the notice of charges is issued to request a hearing.