PORT ORCHARD, Wash. — A possible suspect in the shooting death of a Washington State trooper during a traffic stop early today shot himself hours later as a SWAT team closed in, authorities said.
Joshua Blake is known to law enforcement for meth convictions, Kitsap County Sheriff Steve Boyer said, being careful not to call him a suspect in the shooting of Trooper Tony Radulescu. Boyer also wouldn’t confirm Blake was the owner of the pickup truck that had been pulled over in a traffic stop.
Radulescu stopped the truck around 1 a.m. on Highway 16 near Gorst, about 20 miles west of Seattle across Puget Sound. He had radioed the location and license plate number, said Trooper Russ Winger.
When Radulescu didn’t respond to dispatcher status checks, a Kitsap County sheriff’s deputy went to the scene and found the fatally wounded trooper outside his patrol car. He was taken to St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma where he was declared dead.
Three hours later, officers found the truck abandoned on a county road near Port Orchard, about two miles from the shooting scene.
Investigators received a tip on where to find the registered owner and went to the home.
“As our SWAT team made their approach they heard a single gunshot,” Kitsap County sheriff’s Sgt. Ken Dickinson said. “They found a male subject with a single gunshot wound.” The man was taken to Tacoma General Hospital. Hospital spokesman Cole Coegrove said he couldn’t immediately comment on the man’s condition.
Radulescu, 44, was a 16-year veteran of the Washington State Patrol who served his entire career in the patrol’s Bremerton district.
He was a military veteran with a son in the area who is a soldier, Patrol Chief John Batiste said at an early morning news conference at St. Joseph Medical Center. He was well-known and popular in the community where he often spoke in schools, Batiste said.
“It’s a terrible thing to receive a phone call that one of your people is injured in line of duty. To have that compounded with a loss, it’s a bad day,” Patrol Chief John R. Batiste.
The chief has been consoling family and members of agency.
“They’re all hurting. I’m hurting,” Batiste said.
An aid car carrying Radulescu’s body was escorted by dozens of patrol cars with lights flashing from the hospital to the Pierce County medical examiner’s office where the autopsy would be conducted.
Boyer is a former 27-year veteran of the patrol and knew Radulescu well.
Radulescu was an immigrant from Romania who spoke five languages — a tremendous asset in the patrol’s investigations of auto theft rings with Eastern European connection, Boyer said.
Radulescu was wonderfully personable, he said.
“He could write somebody a ticket and they’d say thank you,” Boyer said.
The death was the first of a trooper on duty in 13 years.
Troooper James Saunders, 31, who was shot in 1999 during a traffic stop in Pasco. Nicolas S. Vasquez pleaded guilty to aggravated murder and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.