Chase rips through quiet town
Charles Wallace’s final, desperate mile ran through an ordinarily tranquil town.
Chased by every cop in the area, suspected of shooting two officers and firing at those pursuing him, Wallace roared west through downtown Deer Park. Past blocks of small, well-kept homes. Past City Hall and Zion Lutheran. Past Perrin Field and Grandma’s Attic and the Cut ’N Up hair and nail salon. Past the Farmers Market and Bakery.
“I just told my staff: Run!” said Lori Musgrave, who was standing outside the market on Crawford Street when Wallace raced past, tires shredding and smoking, head out the window with a gun in his hand. “I’m lucky I got out of the way.”
Shortly after Wallace flew past, so did several police cars. Not long after came a distinctive pop – a gunshot – that marked the end of the chase and Wallace’s life.
If the events of Tuesday afternoon were unusual for Spokane, they were more so in Deer Park. It’s not some untouched Mayberry – there was a gruesome, disturbing murder there in December – but a high-speed chase through the heart of town, with police pursuing someone who’s shooting back at them like some Hollywood criminal, is far out of the ordinary.
“That usually doesn’t happen out here,” said Janet Goodlake, a gas station clerk who saw the chase rush past.
From start to finish Tuesday, it was remarkable how much could have gone wrong and how little did. The deputies shot by Wallace are going to be OK. Wallace died, and there is nothing happy in that, but along the way he put a lot of other people at risk, showing what Washington State Patrol Trooper Joe Leibrecht understatedly called “complete disregard for the public.”
Both Musgrave and Goodlake said they had heard reports late Tuesday afternoon that two deputies had been shot and officers were chasing a suspect. Goodlake saw a link to a news item on Facebook; Musgrave received several calls from family members, as it became clear that the chase was heading toward Deer Park.
Wallace was fleeing north on U.S. Highway 2 and turned onto East Deer Park-Milan Road, which turns into Crawford as it passes through town and connects with U.S. Highway 395.
Musgrave said she could hear the sirens and see the police helicopter tracking Wallace before she realized, “Oh no, he’s coming down our street.”
Her farmers market sits about a quarter-mile from the intersection with Highway 395, and she was standing out front when Wallace came past at about 5 p.m. It’s unclear how fast he was driving – Goodlake said 120, half-joking – but Musgrave said he was driving on the rims, smoke pouring off the tires. She said she didn’t see him shoot, but he was poking out his head and holding a gun out the window; police said he shot at them several times during the chase.
She couldn’t see how the chase ended, but she heard the pop. And knew what it was.
More than an hour later, the town was quiet again. A kid weaved down Crawford on a skateboard. Police searched a stretch of roadside for evidence. And Musgrave remained rattled.
“My heart’s still racing,” she said.
Shawn Vestal can be reached at (509) 459-5431 or email@example.com.