A man who barricaded himself in a van for several hours in a standoff with dozens of law enforcement officers east of downtown Spokane near Third Avenue and Sheridan Street was shot and killed by police early Wednesday morning.
The man exchanged gunfire with Spokane police, leaving one officer with a minor injury, Spokane Police Chief Craig Meidl said in a press conference. The standoff, near Third Avenue and Sheridan Street, lasted until about 6 a.m., police said.
Officers spotted a van at Spokane Street and Second Avenue just before 1 a.m. that they believed was connected to a robbery in Spokane Valley, police said in a statement.
Two of the van’s three occupants left the vehicle when police began to follow them. Both men, Christopher Gooch and Christopher Jones, were arrested on suspicion of first-degree robbery, Spokane police spokeswoman Julie Humphreys said.
The third occupant sped away in the van and crashed into 601 E. Third Ave., an office space rented by medical equipment distributor A1A, Inc.
The suspect fired at officers, and the first two police officers who responded to the scene returned fire, Meidl said. In that first exchange, Meidl said one officer had a minor injury as a result of gunfire, but he declined treatment. Meidl said the suspect likely was not shot in the exchange.
The man barricaded in his vehicle during a standoff that lasted about five hours as police attempted to negotiate with him, Meidl said.
Sheriff’s deputies and fire department units were also on scene, as well as SWAT, explosive disposal, air support and hostage negotiators, police said.
“There was a lot of effort to get him to comply,” Meidl said.
The man fired his gun again, Meidl said, this time at about 5 a.m. An investigation is intended to determine whether the suspect was targeting police or something else.
Police fired pepper spray and tear gas cannisters as well as flash-bang devices into his van, but the suspect tossed them out.
At about 5:45 a.m., one of the cannisters he tossed from the van started a fire nearby in brush, Meidl said. The fire damaged the suspect’s vehicle, police said.
Just before 6 a.m., the suspect exited the vehicle while still armed, according to officers, the Spokane police statement said. The suspect refused commands by officers to show his hands, police said.
“The officers on scene told me that it appeared he was looking for the officers and trying to get target acquisition on the officers,” Meidl said.
Two Spokane police officers and one Spokane County Sheriff’s deputy opened fire. The suspect died at the scene, Meidl said.
Meidl stressed that the incident was still under investigation by the Washington State Patrol.
He said there likely will be body camera footage of the shootings.
That section of Third Avenue remained closed through Wednesday evening as police conducted their investigation, state patrol said.
Residents and law enforcement observed the National Night Out the previous evening throughout Spokane, an event aimed at improving community relations between law enforcement and the community in an effort to reduce crime.
In a statement, Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward noted the incident was the second time this summer a Spokane police officer was injured by gunfire.
The remark was in reference to Officer Kris Honaker, who suffered gunshot wounds to his leg and head in a drive-by shooting June 26. While Honaker was shot, police and city officials have not yet confirmed how the officer involved in Wednesday’s altercation was injured.
“The shooting this morning came just hours after Spokane neighborhoods joined others across the country in celebration and support of law enforcement for Night Out Against Crime,” Woodward said. “The message at the events I attended was very clear and consistent: We are tired of the legislated lawlessness.”
The mayor was specifically criticizing Washington’s police reform laws, city spokesman Brian Coddington said. State lawmakers passed a series of sweeping legislation in 2021 to enact numerous changes, such as restrictions on when officers can use force and engage in vehicular pursuits.
Meidl and other local law enforcement leaders have similarly decried this police reform, claiming the changes hinder officers from doing their job.
Likewise, Woodward said Wednesday the legislation “has stepped us backwards” by taking away law enforcement’s ability to hold criminals accountable.
“It is time for those who make the laws to re-establish an expectation of law and order by bringing back the tools to hold people accountable,” she said in the statement. “It’s what our officers and our community expect and deserve. We once again narrowly avoided serious injury or worse and this can’t continue.”
But Spokane City Council President Breean Beggs said he’s unaware of any police reform law that could have contributed to the incident. He added that police leaders haven’t told him that they are missing any tools as a result of the reform. While Meidl has criticized state law reforms to police vehicle pursuits, Beggs said the Spokane Police Department continues to operate legally under the pursuit rules it used prior to the changes in state law.
Beggs also stressed that police chiefs and organizations were heavily involved in the negotiations over police reform, and some backed the changes. After police concerns were raised once the laws were in effect, the Legislature made numerous changes earlier this year.
Reporter Greg Mason contributed to this report.