Wash. sheriff's deputies shoot, kill assault suspect in SWAT standoff
A drone operator located the man, clad in body armor, in the woods as he approached threatened to shoot law enforcement officers
By Garrett Cabeza and Quinn Welsch
The Spokesman-Review, Spokane, Wash.
LOON LAKE, Wash. — A man is dead after two deputies shot and killed him during a SWAT standoff Wednesday night near Loon Lake, Spokane County, Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said.
The man was suspected of earlier pointing a pistol at another man's head. When deputies located him east of the lake along U.S. Highway 395, he was armed, was wearing body armor and had fled into the nearby woods. At one point he threatened to shoot law enforcement officers before he walked out of the forest and confronted a large contingent of deputies, police officers and the SWAT team, according to a news release.
In Loon Lake, where wildfires are often the biggest threat, the shooting took many off guard.
"This is maybe the first shooting I've heard of (in Loon Lake)," said Fallon Cardoza, who works at Loon Lake Video & Pizza. "I like our little town. Everyone knows pretty much everyone, and if you need help, they'll help you."
The incident started when someone reported a shooting in the 42800 block of North Spotted Road around 3:15 p.m., near the boundary with Stevens County.
The victim said the man, who has not yet been identified, fired the gun but missed, the sheriff's office said in a news release. Deputies recovered a casing and bullet from the scene.
The man fled to a home on the 4000 block of U.S. Highway 395 in the Loon Lake area in Stevens County. Knezovich, at a news conference around 1 a.m. Thursday, said deputies developed probable cause to arrest the man on suspicion of first-degree assault and harassment.
The Stevens County Sheriff's Office requested assistance from the Spokane County Sheriff's Office SWAT team at about 6 p.m. to help take the man into custody, and the Spokane Police Department also responded.
Knezovich said the man, who had fled into the woods, yelled that he was going to shoot law enforcement officers.
Authorities cordoned off the area and located the man with a drone. Authorities said they asked him, via a public address system, to surrender.
Download: How to buy police drones
"We tried to de-escalate the situation," Knezovich said. "The individual continued to yell threats, and at one point during the contact, multiple shots were heard coming from the area where the suspect was. We're not quite sure what he was shooting at."
The drone operator told the SWAT team that the man, who was wearing body armor, was heading toward the team at about 10:15 p.m., the sheriff's office said. About that time, two Spokane County Sheriff's Office deputies fired shots, killing the man.
George Wicke, who has lived in the area for the past five years, said he could hear the officers "unloading" on the man and saw a "swarm" of drones circling the sky.
Knezovich said he is unsure how many shots were fired, but "multiple shots" were fired by the man and the SWAT team.
Knezovich said the names of the deputies will be released in about three days. The man's name will be released after family has been contacted.
The Spokane Independent Investigative Response Team is investigating the fatal shooting and the Spokane Police Department is the managing agency, according to Spokane County Sheriff's Cpl. Mark Gregory.
Spokane law enforcement officers have shot six people this year.
Loon Lake community responds to shooting
Dean Clifton was raking his yard with a friend when two sheriff's deputies came cruising up Loon Lake Cemetery Road, a winding dirt road surrounded by woods off Highway 395, where he lives with his wife, daughter and a small herd of cats.
Two deputies with long guns pointed at him and told him to "get down" because he fit the description of the suspect as an older man with long hair, he said.
Colette Cantrell, Clifton's wife, watched the altercation from the front yard. She said there were an estimated 15-25 police vehicles that surrounded their secluded road that night.
"I've never seen so many police in my life," she said. "I was shocked."
After a few minutes, Clifton was released and the deputies traveled down an unmarked private dirt road on the adjacent property in the heavily wooded area.
None of the neighbors on Loon Lake Cemetery Road who spoke to The Spokesman-Review said they knew who the man was.
"We moved here because it's peaceful," Wicke said of his years living in the area. "Hopefully I'll be here for 50 more."
In general, criminal activity in the area has died down considerably since Cantrell's family moved to the property, she said.
"When we first moved out here, there was a really bad meth problem and the thieves were thick," she said.
Scrap and materials were looted from all over the area to be resold, but that has since died down, she said.
The massive police response was uncharacteristic of the small town, said Nikki Rosco, a lifetime resident of Loon Lake, population 689. Rosco works as a barista at a drive-thru espresso stand, the Ridler Coffee Corner, at one of the town's busiest intersections, and she said the shooting was on the lips of most of her customers on Thursday.
She described the town as a "close-knit community" that doesn't usually get a lot of excitement.
"We leave our cars unlocked out here," she said. "I love it."
Clifton, who has lived at his property with his family for 18 years, said he has never seen anything like it.
"This is a new one and I hope it's the last one," Clifton said. "We're a little peaceful community at the lake. This kinda thing don't happen very often."
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