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 Deputy Craig Chamberlin said.
Deputies and Spokane Valley police officers – who are sheriff’s 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.”
With Lancaster still in 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 told The Spokesman-Review after the standoff.
Loughbom said he told Lancaster to leave and followed him out of the building with the apartment building’s owner.
As the two men followed Lancaster, he crossed into a field behind North Pines Middle School while a gym class was outside, causing a stir, Loughbom said.“They took all the kids and got them off the track. At that point, (Lancaster) started running,” he said.
Loughbom said once they got out of the school zone, Lancaster brandished his gun. “He cocked it and said, ‘I’m not going back to jail. I got a warrant.’ I was definitely scared,” Loughbom said.
The two men backed off and followed Lancaster to a home on Valleyway about a block west of Pines Road. He went into the home, which was 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, school officials escorted students out of the building one at a time to their parents and guardians.
District spokeswoman Melanie Rose said school officials have no way to contact all the students’ parents quickly. There are 550 students at the middle school and 350 at 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 next to a day care with 39 toddlers inside. Heavily armed SWAT members escorted a school bus to the day care, loaded all the children and teachers onto it and took them out of harm’s 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.