Two men died after a gunfight erupted on a dusty, remote Bonner County road Wednesday afternoon.
Several shots - three hitting one man and two tearing into the other - were exchanged between a suspected burglar and a homeowner, said Bonner County Sheriff Chip Ross.
Wendesday night, authorities were still trying to piece together details of the bizarre shooting. They guarded a home in Clagstone, about 26 miles southwest of Sandpoint, and were waiting to search it.
“Right now we have one man dead in a pickup, another one dead in a car and possibly two others involved,” Roos said.
The identities of the two dead men have not been released. Another man and woman - who were also not identified, but appeared to be in their mid-20s - were found inside the house and taken to the sheriff’s office for questioning.
“We don’t know if they were involved. They are not under arrest, but they are the only witnesses we have right now,” Roos said.
The shooting occurred about 3:30 p.m. on Where It’s At Road.
Authorities said the man who owned the home had reported a burglary several days ago. He told police he knew the suspect and thought the man might come back to the residence.
The suspected burglar, who had no identification and was driving a car with Oregon license plates, apparently showed up Wednesday afternoon. The man stopped about a third of a mile from the house where the gun battle began.
“There were probably a half-dozen shots fired,” Roos said. “The guy in the car got two in the upper torso. It looked like he was shot right where he sat.”
The other victim - the man whose home had been burglarized - was shot three times. He was still able to drive his pickup, with a woman inside and two children in the back, about eight miles to U.S. Highway 95.
Those passengers flagged down a passer-by who reported the shooting to the sheriff’s office. An ambulance crew arrived and a medical helicopter from Spokane landed on the highway, backing up traffic for several miles.
“Medics tried to revive the guy for about 15 minutes but he was already gone,” said Undersheriff Nick Krager.
A handgun was found in the bloods-pattered pickup. Authorities also recovered several high-powered rifles and an AK-47 near where the gun battle took place.
“I suspect the AK-47 was used, but right now we are still gathering all the evidence,” Roos said. “It was an odd place for a confrontation. We don’t know if the alleged burglar went to the house or confronted (the other man) with a weapon or what. It’s all pretty sketchy.”
Pat Rasmussen, a neighbor who lives nearby, said she heard the gunfire.
“It sounded like the shots were coming from two or three different places. As soon as I heard them I heard screaming,” Rasmussen said. “It was a woman and she was just screaming. I ran in the house and called my neighbor. I didn’t know who lived back there or what was going on.”
Rasmussen said she didn’t know the homeowner who was shot, only that he lived there a few months in a cabin-type home.
Rasmussen also watched Bonner County’s emergency response team - dressed in black jumpsuits, bulletproof vests and helmets - come to the residence.
Undersheriff Krager said deputies at first thought they were dealing with a hostage situation, because a man and woman were still in the house and the man apparently was armed. There was no confrontation and the couple was shuttled out of the area by a deputy to be questioned.
Their hands were also tested for gunshot residue, which would indicate whether either had fired a gun recently.
The road leading to the home was blocked for about three hours while detectives scoured the area for evidence.