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Driver, passengers left suspect at shooting scene

Thu., June 21, 2012

Details emerging from the aftermath of Tuesday’s shooting paint a picture of a frantic police search for two people who were with the gunman when he opened fire and then fled the scene with their 2-year-old daughter in tow.

New information released Wednesday also could connect the shooting of two Spokane County sheriff’s deputies to an extensive heroin ring under federal investigation and a home-invasion robbery last month in which one victim was shot in the leg.

The man suspected of wounding the two deputies before killing himself, Charles R. Wallace, 41, was indicted on federal drug charges by a grand jury about the same time he was leading police on what may have been the most extensive police chase in Spokane County since 1991.

Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said Deputies Matt Spink and Mike Northway were shot after they pulled over the SUV in which Wallace was a passenger along U.S. Highway 2 near the Northpointe Shopping Center. Spink and Northway had just gotten out of their patrol cars when Wallace exited from the passenger side and began firing with a gun that was reported stolen from a car in Liberty Lake last fall.

Spink and Northway returned fire but did not strike Wallace.

The male driver of the SUV sped off without Wallace. Also in the car were a female and child. The SUV later was found abandoned at Division Street and Graves Road.

Knezovich declined to provide details about the other occupants of the car, though he said they did not fire at deputies. Police later located them after an extensive search, but they were not in custody Wednesday afternoon, said Spokane police Officer Jennifer DeRuwe. It’s unclear where they were found.

“Until we make sure we’ve verified anything, we’re not going to release that,” Knezovich said.

Based on dispatch calls and interviews of at least one relative and neighbors of homes searched, it appears that police were searching for Josh Fowler and Brittany McCullough – a spelling that could not be confirmed Wednesday.

At some point after the shooting, the couple dropped their 2-year-old daughter, Bella, off at Tammy and Pat Page’s home on the 5900 block of North A Street in northwest Spokane.

Tammy Page, Bella’s great aunt, said the girl played with My Little Pony and an Elmo toy on the front room’s wood floor as helicopters and police surrounded the home.

Tammy Page said in an interview Wednesday that they had no warning Bella would be dropped off. She said Brittany and Josh came briefly into the home and appeared to arrive on foot. They said nothing of the potential trouble they were in. But Page said she had an idea that they had been at the scene of the shooting because she and her husband had been watching TV and had seen footage of Brittany’s SUV.

Bella was asleep when her parents dropped her off at the Pages’ home.

“She was perfectly fine,” Tammy Page said.

Pat Page said he was outside the home as two helicopters began flying overhead and about 15 police cars arrived.

“It was like something in the movies,” Pat Page said. “I’m out there waxing the pickup and all hell broke loose.”

Bella’s grandmother eventually arrived and took Bella, Tammy Page said.

Meanwhile, police were surrounding homes near 903 E. Princeton Ave. in northeast Spokane. Neighbors said that police were first focused on homes and a travel trailer across the street from the address. During that time, a cream-colored Explorer and a black and blue Suburban that was at the 903 address left the scene, said Gabriel Montelongo, who lives across the street and was briefly detained before officers began focusing on the correct home.

Eventually, police broke down the door at 903 E. Princeton and searched it. Neighbors said no one was home or inside a Winnebago parked in the driveway. They said the family that had lived at the home – a couple and their baby – moved out soon after the home was the target of a home-invasion robbery in late May. The man who lived there was shot in the leg during the robbery. Lana Lindsay, who also lives across the street, said she believes that Josh Fowler is a frequent visitor to the home but was uncertain if he lived with the couple who recently moved.

The home at 903 E. Princeton is owned by Spokane police Officer Beau J. Brannon, according to Spokane County property records. Neighbors say he rents the home. An attempt made to reach Brannon was unsuccessful Wednesday.

Wallace, who was left at the shooting scene without the SUV, ran and entered a nearby vacant home, then kicked in the back door of another home and confronted a woman, stole her keys and fled in her Honda Accord. Wallace led officers from numerous law enforcement agencies on a chase that included an exchange of gunfire with a Spokane County detective. Along the way, he drove northbound in the southbound lanes of U.S. Highway 2.

“He put a lot of citizens at risk, nearly causing multiple head-on collisions,” Knezovich said.

Wallace crashed into a Spokane Police car and Jersey barrier in Deer Park near Crawford Road and U.S. Highway 395 after driving over a spike strip. He shot himself in the head as officers approached.

“He didn’t want to go back to prison,” Knezovich said. “That was very clear. He was facing a very long sentence.”

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