A police officer in the Washington state capital of Olympia shot and wounded two unarmed black men suspected of trying to steal beer from a supermarket on Thursday, law enforcement said, prompting protests in the city.

The two brothers, aged 21 and 24, were hospitalized, one in critical condition with multiple gunshot wounds, Olympia Police Chief Ronnie Roberts told a news conference.

Officer Ryan Donald, who had been with the Olympia Police Department for three years, told authorities the men had no weapons but attacked him with a skateboard, and that he had issued a verbal warning before opening fire.

The incident follows a series of fatal police confrontations across the United States that have put law enforcement agencies under scrutiny over the use of force, particularly against minorities.

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