The man killed early Tuesday in a police chase had a history of eluding and assaulting officers.
But why Jacob I. Dorfman, 52, led officers on a chaotic race through a South Hill neighborhood, crashing through fences and tearing across manicured yards in a Jeep Grand Cherokee remains a mystery. Dorfman is believed to be the same man who a short time earlier had paced shirtless around a nearby intersection screaming and shooting a pistol, prompting nervous neighbors to call 911 about 1:20 a.m.
Police converged on the area, first chasing Dorfman on foot, then in squad cars after he hopped into the SUV and drove toward Huckleberry’s Natural Market before being cornered at the intersection of Monroe Street and Ninth Avenue. Shots were fired. Dorfman was killed. None of the officers was hurt.
Now, detectives from three law enforcement agencies are investigating. The Washington State Patrol is overseeing the probe.
“This is happening too much, both in our community and the nation,” Spokane police Chief Frank Straub said. “And I want to point out the bravery of our officers who didn’t hesitate to take action responding to a call where somebody had fired a weapon. It’s an unfortunate result, but this is what happens in our business.”
Court records show Dorfman was arrested in 2005 on two counts of third-degree assault of a law enforcement officer. A year earlier, he was arrested for eluding a police officer and passing bad checks and later was sent to prison for robbery and burglary convictions out of Grant County.
Tuesday’s fatal encounter began near the intersection of Adams Street and Eighth Avenue.
A neighbor said he heard a commotion early Tuesday and saw a shirtless man screaming for help, then firing a handgun.
The neighbor watched as a patrol car arrived. The officer identified himself as a policeman and told Dorfman to put his hands up. He fled on foot instead.
When the officer got back in his car to give chase, Dorfman ran to a nearby residence and got into a Jeep SUV, according to a witness.
Dorfman then sped away with officers in pursuit.
The Jeep eventually stopped just north of the parking lot of Huckleberry’s, where police opened fire. Officers recovered a handgun at the scene, police said.
Witness Jesse Barrett, who lives near 10th and Monroe, said he heard three shots fired near the Ace Hardware store and Huckleberry’s.
“By the time I got out there, there was already a whole ton of cops,” Barrett said, adding that two patrol cars had been stationed in that parking lot earlier in the night.
Michael McAdams and Karen Herrick said they were awakened about 1:30 a.m. Tuesday to sirens and the sound of a crash. They looked out the window and saw flashing lights.
Herrick said she heard a man shout, followed by gunshots.
“I, of course, freaked out,” Herrick said. She began to check the doors of the house to make sure they were locked. McAdams said he wasn’t worried.
“There was nothing to be worried about other than putting somebody in our prayers,” he said.
Investigators worked the scene for much of the day.
WSP Trooper Troy Briggs said he did not know if Dorfman was in the SUV when he was shot and killed or if he fired any shots at officers. The SUV at the scene had two broken-out windows on its passenger side.
Briggs said details, including how many officers fired shots in the confrontation, are still under investigation.
The medical examiner’s office completed an autopsy Tuesday.
Dirk Leach, who lives at Eighth and Monroe, said he thought he heard a man and woman arguing before the shots were fired. He said he heard two shots before police arrived, then four shots shortly after the car crashed.
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