A rifle-carrying man who was shot to death while breaking into a Stevens County home Monday night may have eluded police in a car chase 21 hours earlier.
Authorities were still waiting Wednesday for state Trooper Bob Fiorentino to determine whether the dead burglar is the same man he stopped for erratic driving.
“There is a good likelihood that it may be the same individual,” said Sheriff Craig Thayer.
The dead man was identified Wednesday from fingerprints, but Thayer declined to reveal his name until relatives in the central United States could be notified.
He said the man was carrying a .30-06 caliber rifle with a scope when he started to slip through a window in Clayton-area resident Bill Robertson’s home about 10 p.m. Monday. Robertson fired at least three shots from a 9mm semiautomatic pistol and hit the intruder in the chest with one bullet, killing him, Thayer said.
Thayer said investigators haven’t found a permanent address for the dead man, but he was not a local resident.
“He does appear to have a criminal history,” Thayer said, declining to elaborate.
The motorist who fled from police at 12:40 a.m. Monday also had a hunting rifle with a scope. Trooper Fiorentino said the rifle appeared to be a .30-06.
Washington State Patrol spokesmen said Fiorentino stopped the car at the intersection of U.S. Highway 395 and Dahl Road, near Deer Park, because the driver was changing lanes erratically and driving on the shoulder. Fiorentino spotted the rifle as he approached the car and called for backup from a nearby sheriff’s deputy.
“The Stevens County sheriff’s deputy arriving at the same time was real critical in preventing a disaster,” said WSP Lt. Steve Jewell.
Fiorentino suspected the man was high on drugs or alcohol because he behaved strangely and seemed unresponsive.
The suspect drove off as Deputy John Bowers pulled up, and both officers gave chase.
The pursuit lasted nine to 10 minutes and reached speeds of 65 to 70 mph, mostly on county roads but also on Highway 395.
Jewell said the suspect abandoned his car at Fourth and Colville in Deer Park. Bowers and Fiorentino continued the pursuit on foot, but the suspect ran among houses and got away in the darkness.
A Spokane County sheriff’s dog was unable to track the man.
The rifle was missing from the car when officers searched it, Jewell said. A deer in the trunk is believed to have been poached.