LONG BEACH, Wash. — A Washington State Patrol trooper was shot in the head early Saturday while taking inventory of a vehicle about to be towed but is expected to survive.
Trooper Scott Johnson was shot shortly before 1 a.m. along State Route 103, the patrol said. A man walked up and had a short exchange with Johnson and the tow truck driver, then pulled out a handgun and shot Johnson twice, including once to the head, the agency said.
The 25-year veteran of the State Patrol returned fire but it wasn’t known if the man was hit. A $26,000 reward is being offered for information that leads to the shooter’s arrest.
Johnson was taken to a hospital in Long Beach, then to Oregon Health and Science University Hospital in Portland.
Doctors believe his injuries are not life threatening and he had improved to good condition by Saturday afternoon, said State Patrol Chief John Batiste.
“I am incredibly relieved to see Scott doing so well,” Baptiste said. “Despite having been shot in the head, he was laughing and joking with those around him. His behavior today sets a new standard for professionalism and heroism.”
A few tips have come in to the State Patrol tip line, (800) 283-7808, but Baptiste said no solid leads had developed by Saturday afternoon.
The patrol is seeking a white male, 35 to 40 years old and about 5-foot-10-inches to 5-foot-11-inches tall.
“I know that local citizens are outraged at the ambush of a police officer who has served them so well for so long. We have every confidence that we’ll get the tip we need to solve this case,” Baptiste said.
Johnson was assigned to Pacific County upon graduation from the academy in 1984 and has worked in the area his entire career.
The driver of the vehicle being towed had been arrested for driving while impaired and was taken to a nearby police station. Authorities said they had no evidence the DUI arrest and the shooting are related.
“I am troubled that we’ve had yet another police officer attacked while performing what should be a routine task,” State Patrol Chief John Batiste told KING-TV. “I’m exceptionally thankful that our trooper is doing well, and very grateful for the assistance we’ve received from the Pacific County Sheriff’s Office and several nearby agencies.”
Gov. Chris Gregoire said the shooting was another reminder of why Washington state needs to strengthen the protection of its law enforcement officers.
“Trooper Johnson and all of our law enforcement officers put their lives on the line every day to protect and serve us. They are true heroes,” Gregoire said in a statement. “I stand with the entire law enforcement community during this difficult time.”