Thursday, February 23, 2012
Manhunt Ends for Murderer of Washington State Trooper - Possible Suspect Commits Suicide
SEATTLE, WA – A possible suspect in the shooting death of a Washington State trooper during a traffic stop early Thursday shot himself hours later as police closed in, authorities said.
A SWAT team was approaching the house in Port Orchard where they hoped to find the registered owner of the pickup truck the trooper had stopped. They heard a shot and found the man with a self-inflicted wound. He was taken to a Tacoma hospital, where his condition was unknown.
The trooper, a 16-year veteran of the Washington State Patrol, had stopped the truck around 1 a.m. on Highway 16 about 20 miles west of Seattle across Puget Sound. He radioed the location and license plate number, said Trooper Russ Winger.
When the trooper didn't respond to status checks, a Kitsap County sheriff's deputy went to the scene and found the trooper outside his patrol car. He was taken to St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma where he was declared dead.
Three hours later, officers found the truck abandoned on a county road near Port Orchard, about two miles from the shooting scene.
Troopers, deputies and other officers searched the area for the driver using dogs and questioning people. They urged residents to stay inside and call 911 if they saw anything suspicious. Dogs did not pick up a track, Winger said.
The trooper was not immediately identified while out-of-state relatives were notified.
The 44-year-old was a military veteran with a son in the area who is a soldier, Batiste told a news conference at the Tacoma hospital where the trooper was declared dead.
The Bremerton-base trooper was well-known and popular in the community where he often spoke in schools, Batiste said.
"It's a terrible thing to receive a phone call that one of your people is injured in line of duty. To have that compounded with a loss, it's a bad day," Patrol Chief John R. Batiste.
The chief has been consoling family and members of agency.
"They're all hurting. I'm hurting," Batiste said.
An aid car carrying the trooper's body was escorted by dozens of patrol cars with lights flashing from the hospital to the Pierce County medical examiner's office where the autopsy would be conducted.
The last Washington State Patrol trooper killed on duty was James Saunders, 31, who was shot in 1999 during a traffic stop in Pasco. Nicolas S. Vasquez pleaded guilty to aggravated murder and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.