A gun-wielding man made an extra long day for some students and caused tense moments for parents at two Spokane Valley schools, but a hostage negotiator ended the three-hour standoff without injuries.
“It happened like it’s scripted,” Spokane County Sheriff’s spokesman Deputy Craig Chamberlin said.
Deputies and Spokane Valley Police officers _ who are deputies contracted to work as police officers in the city _ arrested 39-year-old Ryan Lancaster on the charges of first-degree assault, first-degree burglary and outstanding warrants.
The long afternoon started just before 2:30 p.m. when Lancaster went to an apartment on Broadway where his former girlfriend lives. Chamberlin said Lancaster climbed through a window and threatened two women with a gun.
The women “said he attempted to shoot them but it appeared the gun jammed,” Chamberlin said. “Then he took off running.”
Outside the apartment, the daughter of Lancaster’s ex-girlfriend ran down to the apartment of 23-year-old Shawn Loughbom and asked for help.
“The girl said (Lancaster) stole my mom’s money for income taxes and a laptop,” Loughbom said. Lancaster had not yet left.
“I told him he had to leave. The owner of the apartment was following me out,” Loughbom said.
The two men followed Lancaster and called 911. He crossed into the field behind North Pines Middle School as one of the classes was holding gym class, Loughbom said.
“They took all the kids and got them off the track. At that point, (Lancaster) started running,” he said.
Loughbom and the apartment owner followed Lancaster. “Once he got out of the school zone, he pulled the gun out and pointed it us. He cocked it and said, ‘I’m not going back to jail. I got a warrant.’ I was definitely scared.”
The two men backed off and followed Lancaster to a home on Valley Way about a block west of Pines Road. He went into the home occupied by a 57-year-old man and an infant. They were acquaintances, Chamberlin said.
Soon after, police and the sheriff’s SWAT team surrounded the home. Central Valley School District officials then placed North Pines Middle School and Broadway Elementary on lockdown. Later, as the standoff continued, they allowed parents to come get the kids one-by-one.
District spokeswoman Melanie Rose said school officials have no way to quickly contact the parents of the 550 students at the middle school or the 350 parents of students who attend the elementary school.
“We need an emergency notification system. That was part of the bond that was not approved” in February, 2011, she said.
The standoff occurred just next to a daycare with 39 toddlers inside. Heavily armed SWAT members escorted a school bus to the home, rescued all the students and teachers and reversed out of harms way with Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich riding in the first row.
Ben Lipke watched as his 3-year-old son rolled past to safety. “I’m glad they got the kids out as fast as they did,” said Lipke, who followed the bus to a nearby police station.
Chamberlin said sheriff’s officials had no communication with anyone inside the home for most of the standoff. Eventually, a hostage negotiator talked everyone out.