PORT ORCHARD, Wash. (AP) — Detectives are investigating why a man ran from deputies and then opened fire in a Walmart parking lot in Western Washington, sparking a shootout that killed him and a young woman who ran to him after he was shot. Two sheriff's deputies were shot but are expected to survive.
The officers were responding to a call Sunday about a suspicious person at the store in Port Orchard, about 15 miles west of Seattle across Puget Sound. Two deputies found the man and tried to talk to him but he began running, and they gave chase. “For reasons not yet known, the suspect turned and fired multiple shots,” Kitsap County sheriff's spokesman Scott Wilson said.
Both officers were hit and unable to return fire, but a female officer arriving on the scene shot and killed the gunman, Wilson said. It's not yet clear who shot the woman, believed to be in her late teens, who died later at a Tacoma hospital. Ballistics tests on the bullets could show whether it was the deputy or the suspect, the state patrol said.
“We believe that she and the deceased gunman knew each other, that they were together,” Wilson told The Associated Press. He said investigators don't know yet the relationship between the two.
Destany Droge, 22, of Bremerton, said the two people killed appeared to be a couple.
“As soon as she saw him get shot, she ran for him,” she told The News Tribune of Tacoma. “She put herself in the line of fire.”
Tacoma police said the deputies were both shot in the torso and were in satisfactory condition.
“I've seen just the one deputy, he's in one of the rooms talking with family and co-workers,” said Mark Fulghum of the Tacoma police. “Both of the deputies are going to be fine. They're going to be kept overnight for observation.”
Autopsies were scheduled Monday for the two people killed. Their names — as well as the names of the three deputies — haven't been released. Investigators said the Kitsap County coroner was still trying to confirm the dead man's identity Monday morning.
A blue minivan that apparently belonged to the suspect has been impounded and will be searched for possible evidence, said Washington State Patrol Trooper Krista Hedstrom. The van has out-of-state plates, but Hedstrom didn't know what state.
The female deputy involved in the shooting has been placed on administrative assignment until the investigation is completed, which is standard practice.
Shoppers raced to take cover as the incident unfolded.
The officers were about 30 to 40 feet behind the suspect when he started firing, Ray Bourge told KOMO-TV. “Five or six shots were fired. … I just went and took cover,” he said.
Victor Meyers told the station that he heard the first shot, then six more in rapid succession.
“I heard one shot, which I thought was a car backfiring, and then several more reported back, which I knew to be gunfire,” Meyers said.
He said he saw a female deputy running toward a victim on the ground before he and other witnesses were hustled from the scene.
The store was immediately locked down. Customers in the store were allowed to leave after investigators questioned them. The store reopened Sunday night, Hedstrom said, and the shooting scene was cleared.
Port Orchard is the county seat and has about 8,250 residents. The last time a Kitsap County sheriff's deputy was shot in the line of duty was in April 1978, according to The Tacoma News Tribune. Deputy Dennis Allred stopped to help what he believed to be a stranded driver towing another vehicle. The vehicle turned out to be stolen, and Allred was shot and killed by the suspects.