A downtown gunfire exchange just before noon Sunday between law enforcement officers and a suspect involved in a federal investigation left one man in the hospital with life-threatening injuries.
The shooting took place at the intersection of Cedar Street and First Avenue around 11 a.m., prompting a large police response and closure of the intersection for several hours.
The Spokane Police Department was conducting a joint investigation with the Drug Enforcement Agency when they attempted to make contact with the subject in the investigation, Spokane Police Department Assistant Chief of Police Justin Lundgren said during a news conference. Spokane police officers responded to the scene in marked police vehicles and pinned the suspect’s vehicle, which was stationary, he said.
“As they moved to make contact with him inside of the vehicle, he emerged from the vehicle with a handgun and began firing at officers,” Lundgren said. “Multiple officers and the subject exchanged gunfire. It all happened very, very quickly.”
One officer was “struck by something that caused a grazing wound” from the gunfire and was transported to an area hospital. Police later said he received a head wound. The officer is expected to make a full recovery, Lundgren said.
The suspect was also transported to an area hospital and was in surgery Sunday afternoon, although Lundgren did not have any details on the severity of his wounds or how many times he was shot. Officers immediately began to render first aid after the shooting, he said.
The suspect was not the only person in the vehicle when police made contact with him, but Lundgren did not provide further details. At least one other person was seen detained by police at the intersection of First and Cedar, but Lundgren said there were no other arrests.
“I heard close to 10-15 shots,” said Elliott Richard, who has lived in an apartment complex across the street from the shooting for the past two-and-a half years. “I thought they were fireworks.”
At least two other residents who live near the intersection said there were between 15-20 shots. Police later said multiple officers fired their weapons.
Richard said the shooting was uncharacteristic for the area. Lundgren said the agency is dealing with more armed suspects.
“Unfortunately, what we’ve been experiencing as a department is that some of these violent criminals are carrying firearms and they are willing to use them against other people in the community and law enforcement with growing regularity,” Lundgren said. “When these types of individuals encounter law enforcement, this is an increasing threat we’re facing.”
More than a dozen police vehicles blocked off the intersection of First Avenue and Cedar Street by 11:30 a.m. as officers, some in plain clothes and carrying long rifles, worked behind the crime scene tape into the late afternoon.
There were no DEA agents involved in the shooting, but they were involved in the investigation, Lundgren said. The Spokane police SWAT team, Special Investigations Unit and Violent Crimes Task Force were all involved in the investigation as well.
The Spokane Independent Investigative Response Team has taken over the investigation into the shooting, with the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office as the lead investigative agency. The identities of the officers involved in the shooting will be released later
The officers involved in the shooting will be placed on administrative leave, per protocol.