A more than 20 hour stand-off with a man who allegedly shot a Hoquiam police officer ended early this morning with a raging fire and the man shot dead by police after he exited the home with his weapon.
Around 6:15 a.m. officers on scene reported seeing the man, whom they had not communicated with for several hours, descending the home’s staircase holding a handgun, Grays Harbor Sheriff’s Chief Criminal Deputy Steve Shumate said this morning. Shortly after, the home was reported to be on fire.
Just after 6:30 a.m., the man exited the home armed with the gun. After he didn’t comply with a number of commands, Shumate said, and officers shot the man. He was declared dead on scene. No aid was called. It was unclear if the suspect returned fire or if he was only brandishing the weapon.
The home quickly became fully invovled in flames as Aberdeen and Hoquiam firefighters arrived on scene and tried to contain the fire and keep it from spreading to nearby homes.
Shumate said officers had been using distraction devices, including flash bang grenades, during the standoff, but are unsure at this time if they are related to the cause of the fire. Onlookers early Thursday morning said they could feel heat from the intense blaze two blocks away at the edge of the barricade. Flames were leaping about 20 feet above the roof line of the home. As of press time, the fire was contained and under control.
Shumate said officers had been communicating over a loudspeaker with the man until about 1:30 a.m. when the suspect covered the windows with matresses and they were not able to communicate with him further.
Officials were still trying to sort out the details this morning. Shumate said they still don’t know for sure who the man was. The person they believe he was only had a warrant for fraud.
“We’re not sure what other factors led this individual to do what he did,” Shumate said.
Other than the Hoquiam officer who was shot in the initial altercation with the man, no other officers were injured, he said. Since Wednesday, Shumate estimated there have been hundreds of officers involved at one time or another on scene.
Early in the standoff, residents in a one-block radius were evacuated, but the evacuation was widened considerably after gunfire was exchanged.
They’re all still waiting to go home, Shumate said. It could be some time before they’re allowed to.
The incident started the day before when two Hoquiam officers served warrants on a man and a woman at a home on the 2800 block of Aberdeen Avenue in Hoquiam, Shumate said. The woman was arrested and the man gave a false identity.
At 10:40 a.m. Wednesday, four Hoquiam officers returned to arrest the man after his real identity was discovered.
According to Shumate, there was an altercation and the man pulled a gun and fired, hitting the officer. The police withdrew from the home while returning fire.
The officer, Sgt. Jeff Salstrom according to media reports, sustained non-life threatening injuries and was treated at Grays Harbor Community Hospital in Aberdeen and released, Shumate said.
Hoquiam and Aberdeen police, as well as members of the Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s Department, quickly arrived on the scene and closed off a two-block perimeter around the house. A crisis negotiator was sent in to talk to the man and the Aberdeen SWAT team was brought in. By 2 p.m., members of the State Patrol SWAT and Bomb Squad teams were on scene as well. Robots from the bomb squad were used to look inside the home.
Crowds gathered at all sides of the the barricade while a command center was set up on the west side of the barricade at the corner of 29th Street and Aberdeen Avenue. Neighbors gathered on the east side of the barricade as officers and troopers with rifles set up behind wood piles, cars and fences.
Police had minimal contact with the man overnight.
Police had been talking to the man until about 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, when he fired several shots at a Washington State Patrol SWAT vehicle, according to Shumate. Earlier in the day, the man also opened fire on a robot deployed into the home by the State Patrol, Shumate said.
Repeated volleys of tear gas were deployed into the home throughout the evening, as SWAT teams from the Harbor and the Washington State Patrol positioned themselves in the event the man did not come out peacefully. The State Patrol SWAT team had taken the lead as of 10 p.m. Wednesday, Shumate added. State Patrol SWAT was releived this morning by Thurston County SWAT.