The man accused of fatally shooting a police officer with an assault rifle in a domestic dispute is “a nice guy” and “a very brave man,” friends say.
Sap Kray, 45, is a Cambodian immigrant who fought against the Khmer Rouge before escaping his native country more than 20 years ago.
“We were soldiers together for five years,” a man at a Cambodian cultural center in Tacoma told the News Tribune.
“We ate the same plates (of food) together. He was a very brave man. He would do anything for his country, even give his life. He hated the Communists for what they did to Cambodia,” said the man, who refused to be identified.
The shooting took place Thursday at the home where Kray’s estranged wife, Samoun Srip, lived with their sons Chandara, 14, and 16-year-old Veasna.
Kray apparently argued with Srip on Wednesday night, then followed her to her job at Emerald Downs Race Track in Auburn, where she worked on a cleaning crew.
There was a confrontation with Auburn police at the track and Kray left. When Srip returned from work at 6:30 a.m. Thursday and saw Kray’s van in her driveway, she called police, saying she was afraid to enter the home and that her husband had threatened her with a gun the day before, Tacoma Police spokesman Jim Mattheis said.
Officer William Lowry, 39, a police SWAT team member, was shot and fatally wounded when officers approached the house at about 10 a.m., expecting the gunman to surrender. Mattheis said Friday that members of the SWAT team had already hit the gunman twice with non-lethal rubber bullets when officers attempted to enter the house.
“It appears that Officer Lowry had gotten one leg in the door at which time he contacted the suspect,” Mattheis said. “He identified himself as a police officer several times and he kept yelling ‘Put the gun down!”’ At that time, gunshots broke out although it’s still unclear who fired the first shot, he said.
Lowry turned around and came back through the door saying, “I’ve been hit,” before collapsing on the grass in the yard, Mattheis said. Lowry was wearing a helmet and bulletproof vest.
One bullet that hit Lowry “traveled the arm, exited the armpit, entered the chest above the vestline, then traveled straight through his chest and exited the other side,” Mattheis said.
Lowry followed proper procedure, he said.
“The (rubber bullets) are made to knock the suspect down - which they did. The suspect had his gun sitting right by the door” when the officers came in, Mattheis said.
Three other officers were hit by bullets during the shootout, none of them seriously.
Memorial services for Lowry, who left behind a wife and young daughter, were set for Wednesday at the Tacoma Dome.
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