The Chelan County prosecutor is clearing a Wenatchee police officer of any wrongdoing during an 18-hour standoff on the Chumstick Highway last year. 

Prosecutor Robert Sealby says the use of deadly force by Sgt. Cory Bernaiche was necessary and performed in good faith. 

Bernaiche fired his rifle three times, but did not strike Abel Wilkes, who officers say was pointing his gun at members of the East Cascades SWAT team. 

Wilkes is serving a nearly four-year prison sentence for second-degree assault in the incident. 

A detailed report of the standoff and events leading up to it was prepared by the regional Central Basin Investigative Team, comprising law enforcement agencies in the North Central Washington region. The report was sent to Sealby to determine if Sgt. Bernaiche had committed a crime by firing his weapon. 

Wilkes, who is now 48 years old, barricaded himself when a SWAT team arrived on scene at his trailer in response to a call for an unruly person firing shots. 

Wilkes landlord, who lives in an adjacent home, called in a complaint after Wilkes reportedly pointed a rifle at him. 

Wilkes finally surrendered to SWAT team officers after 18 hours. Officers used a bearcat tractor to tear off portions of the trailer where Wilkes emerged from after hiding with his dog in the trailer's crawl space. 

In his review, Sealby said Wilkes failed to comply when officers attempted to de-escalate the situation by repeatedly issuing verbal commands to Mr. Wilkes to exit his residence peacefully. 

In addition to repeated verbal commands to Mr. Wilkes, Sealby said officers deployed less-lethal force during the course of this situation. 

His review said Officer Bernaiche did not act either recklessly or negligently in his contact with Mr. Wilkes.  

Sealby said Officer Bernaiche did not act with malice toward Mr. Wilkes as he was acting out of fear for his own physical safety and the safety of others, and he did not act with “evil intent, wish or design.” 

He said Bernaiche fired 3 shots at Mr. Wilkes after efforts to de-escalate the situation failed, and in response to Mr. Wilkes pointing a firearm at Bernaiche and at other officers. 

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Gallery Credit: Rik Mikals

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