SPOKANE, Wash. — A young man shot to death following a police chase Tuesday night was a combat veteran wounded in Afghanistan three years ago and denied disability benefits.
Jedadiah Zillmer, 23, died at the scene of the confrontation near Spokane Valley Mall when Spokane County sheriff’s deputies opened fire. The armed man was despondent, wearing body armor and threatening to begin shooting civilians while also pointing the gun at himself, said Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich.
After a lengthy chase, Zillmer was stopped by pursuing law enforcement near the intersection of Sullivan Road and Indiana Avenue just east of Spokane Valley Mall.
“If he would have gotten to the mall, something tragic may have happened,” Knezovich said.
An autopsy Wednesday showed Zillmer died of multiple gunshot wounds.
The identities of the law enforcement officers involved were being withheld Wednesday. The shooting is being investigated by a multiagency team led by the Spokane Police Department.
Meanwhile, the man’s friends and relatives discussed the tragedy and urged prayers for the immediate family throughout the day Wednesday.
A relative said Zillmer was seeing a counselor in Spokane after returning from Afghanistan. Family members suspected he might have been suffering from post-traumatic stress, but no diagnosis had been made, said Zillmer’s aunt, Angie Williamson.
Zillmer and his wife, Katie Zillmer, were planning a July wedding ceremony. The couple married secretly and revealed the news to their families several months later, Williamson said.
He was a 2008 graduate of Lewis and Clark High School and was studying computer science at Spokane Falls Community College.
Zillmer, who was shot in the foot in Afghanistan in 2011, was among a handful of soldiers who sued after being denied disability benefits from the Army. A federal judge upheld the Army’s decision in September.
The combat injury occurred in a firefight on Feb. 17, 2011. Zillmer’s cavalry unit was holed up in a house in the Helgal Valley, a remote area of Kunar province near the Pakistan border, Zillmer wrote in his request for disability benefits. The unit was pinned down and taking fire from militants with small arms and rocket-propelled grenades. Another member of Zillmer’s unit was killed in the battle.
Zillmer was medically evacuated and underwent 10 weeks of surgeries. The combat injury placed him on crutches and in a wheelchair for more than four months, documents show. He lost part of a toe and was awarded the Purple Heart for his service before leaving the Army in 2012.
The benefit denial was part of a supplemental insurance policy available to service members that covers any type of disability that prevents soldiers from performing basic daily activities, even if just temporarily.
According to his lawsuit, the Army denied his temporary disability claim in part because the nurse who helped treat him failed to check boxes on paperwork indicating whether he was personally familiar with the limitations that the injury had created. Other paperwork lapses also were cited.
Zillmer argued, among other things, that when evacuated halfway around the world following a combat injury, the treating physician is unavailable to ask about the kind of paperwork the Army was requiring.
A neighbor, Chad Martini, said Zillmer moved into a home north of Gonzaga University about a year ago. Last week, Martini said he ran out of gas and Zillmer brought him a few gallons to make it home.
He tried to take Zillmer $30 to pay him back for the fuel last night, but police were outside the home and he had to leave the cash with a friend, Martini said.
“He was a great guy,” Martini said.