Three Inchelium teenagers face charges in a crime spree that includes shooting at a woman and her 3-month-old granddaughter, firing on a police car and stopping a school bus at gunpoint.
Formal assault charges were expected to be filed today against the boys, who are 17, 14, and 13 years old.
They were caught in a police dragnet Monday night after Inchelium School District driver Rose Rankin foiled an armed attempt to remove a student from her bus near Twin Lakes on the Colville Indian Reservation.
“That was the realest-looking gun I ever looked down the barrel of,” said Rankin, who didn’t learn until Tuesday evening that it was a BB pistol.
Rankin said she stopped when the 13-year-old boy, a student at the Inchelium school, stepped in front of her bus. He then pointed the gun at her through the door and demanded that one of her five passengers, a seventh-grade boy, get off.
Rankin said she refused the order despite being afraid.
“I thought he was going to pull the trigger,” she recalled. “I thought, ‘Oh, God, what am I going to do now? I have all these kids on board.’ “I just looked at him for a couple of seconds and then I reached up and keyed my (two-way radio) microphone a couple of times and said, ‘I have a gun pointed at me and I need help,’ and then they took off running.”
The boy didn’t say why he wanted the passenger off the bus, but it apparently had something to do with a burglary Sunday at the passenger’s house.
“He told me on the way home, ‘You probably saved my life,”’ Rankin said.
The crime spree started Sunday with break-ins and vandalism at the Inchelium school and a home in the area, followed by the theft of a pickup truck at another home, according to Jay Goss, Colville Confederated Tribes police chief.
Joyce Kohler reported about 10 p.m. Sunday that someone had just stolen the family truck and may have shot at her, Goss said. Kohler is the wife of Ferry County Commissioner Gary Kohler, who was away on business.
Kohler said she was baby-sitting her 2-year-old grandson and 3-month-old granddaughter when the pickup started with a roar. Holding her granddaughter, she peered out the front door.
“I heard another pop and I sensed a puff of smoke or something, and it caused me to back up,” Kohler recalled. “I was just shaking.”
Kohler suspected gunfire, but told herself, “It can’t be happening. Maybe the pickup made a noise.”
The next morning, she discovered a bullet had passed all the way through the house, penetrating three walls. It struck the house about 3 feet from where she had been standing that night, slightly above her head.
Tribal wildlife officer Larry Finley spotted the pickup shortly after it was stolen.
Goss said the suspects eluded Finley after firing shots at him. Tribal police Sgt. Darrel Gordon took up the chase, catching a bullet in the passenger-side mirror of his patrol car.
The suspects abandoned the pickup near the Columbia River, just east of Inchelium. They fled into the woods, leaving behind a .22-caliber semiautomatic rifle and a ruined engine.
“At that time of the night, we don’t go tromping through the woods in pursuit of armed people - especially when we don’t have enough officers,” Goss said.
An investigation the next morning identified the suspects. Up to 17 tribal officers and Ferry County sheriff’s deputies were combing the woods and conducting a house-to-house search when school officials reported the assault on Rankin’s bus about 4 p.m. near Twin Lakes, about 12 miles west of Inchelium.
The boys were spotted 3-1/2 hours later near the Rainbow Beach Resort. Following a foot chase with officers, they were arrested.
Ferry County Superior Court Judge Fred Stewart ruled Monday that authorities could continue to detain suspects until they are arraigned May 7. They were being held on suspicion of first-degree assault in an isolated cell at the county jail until other arrangements could be made.
Juveniles ordinarily cannot be in an adult jail. But Goss said the Okanogan County Juvenile Detention Center refused to take the suspects because they have no criminal records.