A North Idaho sheriff says a gunman who opened fire on police last month and was shot in return is probably alive thanks to the quick aid provided by officers on the scene.
“Officers involved on that Sunday night showed great resolve and are a testament to their professionalism,” Bonner County Sheriff Daryl Wheeler said Wednesday. “An example of that professionalism was when officers immediately provided life-saving measures to the suspect who minutes earlier was trying to kill them.”
Wheeler, whose office is leading the investigation of the June 22 shootout in Post Falls, revealed more details about the confrontation with Marcus Rael, who’s from Glendale, Arizona.
The 24-year-old was armed with an FN 5.7 carbine rifle with a 50-round magazine and an AK-47 with a high-capacity drum magazine, and evidence shows Rael fired both weapons, Wheeler said. The FN 5.7 is known as a “cop killer” with rounds designed to penetrate bulletproof vests, the sheriff added.
Police began pursuing Rael in the early morning hours when he fled an officer’s attempt to pull him over in Coeur d’Alene on suspicion of driving under the influence, Wheeler said. Police pursued him west on Interstate 90, and Rael took the Spokane Street exit just before encountering a spike strip placed in his path on the freeway, the sheriff said.
“Rael began shooting at officers while pulling off the interstate,” he said. “After the truck he was driving came to a stop, Rael continued to fire at officers.”
Rael fortified himself between his 2004 Nissan Titan work truck, which had several steel toolboxes in the back, and a Jersey barrier on the interstate off-ramp, Wheeler said.
Confronting him there, officers attempted to get Rael to surrender, but he continued to fire on them, the sheriff said. The 12 officers who returned fire are with the Post Falls and Coeur d’Alene police departments, the Idaho State Police and the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office.
“They showed great courage that night and restraint, trying to de-escalate that scene,” Wheeler said. “If no one has ever been in a firefight or been shot at, you don’t understand how stressful that can be. My hat’s off to those officers that were on scene initially.”
He did not reveal how many rounds were fired by police or by Rael, how many times Rael was shot or the nature of his injuries. Some patrol cars were struck by bullets but no officers were injured.
Bonner County detectives continue to investigate the shooting, and more details will come out later, the sheriff said. “You have to understand that there are literally hundreds and probably up to 1,000 pieces of evidence that have to be processed,” he said.
Wheeler said police also do not know why Rael was in North Idaho. Upon being released from the hospital he was arrested and sent to the Kootenai County Jail on $1 million bond.
Prior to the shooting, Rael called 911 and spoke with a dispatcher, giving authorities information about his identity, Wheeler said. He did not reveal the nature of the conversation.
The officers who fired at Rael were placed on administrative leave and now are beginning to return to work.