TACOMA — A man apparently infatuated with a special education teacher he knew from college shot and killed her as she walked into her elementary school Friday, shortly before students began arriving.
The suspect was killed in a shootout with a deputy a short time later about 10 miles away, said Pierce County sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer.
The man had been released on bail Monday after being arrested a week ago for violating a protective order the teacher, Jennifer Paulson, obtained in September 2008, said Tacoma police spokesman Mark Fulghum.
The victim’s father, Ken Paulson, said she was kind and loving, and that’s probably why she was a special education teacher. He described the 30-year-old as a devout Christian.
The father said the man who killed his daughter was Jed Waits, of Ellensburg. The two had apparently known each other since she was in college, when they worked together at a cafeteria at Seattle Pacific University.
In her petition for the anti-harassment order filed in Pierce County District Court, Paulson said she and Waits occasionally socialized with co-workers and friends outside of work as a group but “never had any sort of romantic involvement.”
She said she heard from Waits about once a year since she graduated from college in 2003, but on the days she heard from him, he would sometimes call 10 to 15 times in one day.
Then in spring 2008, he showed up at her school, walked into the building and passed the office, where he was stopped by a secretary.
“I never told him where I work and do not know how he found out,” Paulson wrote.
He also sent roses and a bear to her at the school. Paulson’s principal called Waits’ commander in the National Guard to inform him of the harassment, she wrote.
The anti-harassment order banned Waits from going within 1,000 feet of Paulson’s home or school. But she saw him as she was leaving work Friday, so she called 911 from her car. Waits was arrested that night, and after he made bail, Paulson stopped staying at her home, at least temporarily, her father said.
Fulghum said there had been no indication that Waits had a weapon or had threatened Paulson with a weapon, but it “sounds like he had a pretty good infatuation with her.”
The shooting happened at Birney Elementary, which has about 400 students in kindergarten through fifth grade. Classes were canceled for the day, and officials had not made a decision about Monday’s classes.
The shooter was waiting for the teacher when she arrived at 7:35 a.m. and shot her multiple times as she was trying to enter the school, Fulghum said.
Omar Moreno, 22, who lives across the street from the school, said he heard three gunshots.
“I heard a teacher screaming at the top of her lungs — just screaming,” he said. “I looked out my window and I saw the guy. He started running down the middle of the street and got in his car.”
Moreno said the man, wearing a white snow cap and white gloves, drove off in a tan car. Soon after, Moreno said, a custodian barreled out of the school screaming for someone to call the police.
Moreno said he saw the victim laying on the ground, bleeding from the mouth. It was clear to him she had died, he said.
A deputy pulled over the suspect’s car in the parking lot of a daycare, and he came out firing a handgun, Troyer said. The deputy returned fire and killed the man.
“We’re lucky our guy’s OK. The guy did have semiautomatic and did fire a round,” Troyer told KCPQ-TV.
School district spokesman Dan Voelpel said Paulson worked in the language resource center helping students one-on-one with reading problems. She had been with the district since 2004 and at the school since 2007.
Paulson’s death “knocked everyone flat,” Voelpel said. “It’s going to hit this community hard.”
The shooting occurred three days after a 32-year-old man with a history of mental illness opened fire in a middle school parking lot in Colorado, wounding two students.