HOQUIAM, Wash. (AP) – A 20-hour standoff between police in a Washington coastal town and a man who wounded an officer trying to arrest him on a warrant ended Thursday when the suspect died in a gunbattle with a SWAT team as his house went up in flames.
The armed man had a gas mask and a ballistic helmet, indicating he had prepared for a confrontation, Hoquiam Sgt. Brian Dayton said.
The question is why.
“We have no idea what made the guy take it to such an extreme level,” Dayton said. “No reason as to why it escalated.”
The 49-year-old man and his 53-year-old wife, whose names were not released, were wanted on arrest warrants out of Sacramento, Calif., for fraud, Dayton said.
The wife owned the home, and the couple had lived in Hoquiam since 2004. The man wasn’t suspected of any crimes locally, Dayton said.
Officers went to the home Tuesday and arrested the woman on a warrant. She remains in the Grays Harbor County Jail.
The man gave a false identification, but officers figured it out and returned Wednesday morning to arrest him.
“He engaged in a firefight with the officers on the scene, striking one of our officers,” Dayton said.
Sgt. Jeff Salstrom was hit in the hip, but the bullet was slowed by his duty belt, Dayton said. Salstrom was treated at a hospital for a minor wound and released.
The standoff began after Salstrom and another officer returned fire and the suspect retreated into the two-story house, where he holed up on the top floor.
The man yelled back and forth with officers who remained on the first floor, and he told them he was wounded, Dayton said.
Communications broke off in the early evening after the man damaged a police robot that was sent into the home, and the officers went outside.
“The situation became unsafe, and they backed out and started using a public address system,” Dayton said.
The man was seen overnight in a gasmask and helmet.
“It appeared to us he was prepared to have this standoff,” Dayton said.
Throughout the night, police fired tear gas into the house and used some loud distraction devices.
Around 6 a.m., flames were reported at the back of the house and the man came out the front.
“He was confronted by the tactical team,” Dayton said. “He failed to obey commands _ show me your hands, put the gun down. Some more gunfire was exchanged, and the suspect went down.”
Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s Chief Criminal Deputy Steve Shumate said at a news conference later Thursday that officers opened fire after the man appeared at the front door with a firearm, KBKW reported.
“We know that he had already fired upon the officers, so after a number of commands for him to drop the weapon, SWAT members had to discharge their firearms,” Shumate said.
The man died at the scene.
Firefighters entered the house as soon as it was safe, but flames burned through the roof. Video on KOMO-TV showed the home fully engulfed. It’s unknown how the fire started.
More than 100 officers from surrounding agencies helped Hoquiam police through the standoff. Neighbors were evacuated, and nearby streets including the main coastal route, Highway 101, were shut down for a time.
The wounded officer is recovering, Hoquiam Chief Jeff Meyers told KBKW.
“I had an opportunity to visit with him and his family this morning,” Meyers said. “He is doing very well. He did suffer some injuries as a result of this incident so we are very thankful that he is OK.”
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