An elderly man who fired at law enforcement about 12:30 p.m. Wednesday was shot and killed when officers returned fire, according to Thurston County Sheriff’s Lt. Greg Elwin.
The 70-year-old man was distraught over his wife’s recent cancer death, neighbors said. His name is being withheld until the Thurston County coroner notifies family members.
The man had been acting erratically earlier in the morning, standing in the street and blocking traffic near his home in the area of Maytown and Littlerock roads, witnesses said. The man also fired a rifle at a passing driver, a witness said.
According to Elwin:
Deputies were dispatched about 11:45 a.m. The first to arrive told the man to drop his weapon, but the man instead fled to his home. The man then fired at deputies, and some rounds struck Littlerock Elementary School across the street. Deputies formed a perimeter, and when the man left his home out the back door, he was armed with a pistol.
The man began firing from his back porch at two Thurston County sheriff’s deputies and a Tenino police officer. A 47-year-old deputy and a 36-year-old Tenino officer returned fire.
The man was struck by gunfire and pronounced dead at the scene. On Wednesday afternoon, he was lying in the back yard of his home, covered by a blue tarp.
It’s unknown which law enforcement officer’s bullets struck the man. Both men have been placed on paid administrative leave, standard practice in officer-involved shootings.
Neighbor Heather Goodrich said she heard three shots. Another neighbor, Tim Roberts, said he heard five or six. As of Wednesday afternoon, Elwin didn’t know how many shots were fired.
The death is being investigated by an interagency officer-involved shooting team that includes sheriff’s detectives from neighboring counties, Elwin said.
Dan Sebring said he was driving down Maytown Road about noon with his wife and three children in the car when the man fired at his vehicle.
“He was standing out here as people were driving by,” Sebring said. “He shot at my car … He was yelling and screaming, ‘Don’t look at me; move on.’”
Sebring said his wife called 911. He said he doesn’t think his car was struck and that the man shot at other drivers, too.
“He was shooting at everything and anything he could find,” Sebring said.
Deputies had been called to the scene earlier, about 8 or 9 a.m., after neighbors complained about the man’s behavior in the street, neighbor Amanda Muxen said. The man was not armed at the time, Muxen said. He was angry about yard waste that had fallen from a passing car onto the street and was trying to pick it up, she said.
Elwin confirmed that a deputy had been called to the location earlier but didn’t have details.
Goodrich, who lives on Maytown Road, said the man’s wife died several months ago after a long battle with cancer, and he hadn’t been the same since.
“I understand it ended very badly, but he was a nice guy,” she said. “He was acting erratic today.”
Muxen’s boyfriend, Tim Robbins, added that during the earlier incident with deputies, “I was talking to him, trying to get him to calm down.”
Dianna Lance, a clerk at Littlerock Grocery, said the man behaved erratically in the store Sunday night. He couldn’t find his wallet and seemed disoriented, she said. After he left, he harassed people in the parking lot, she said.
That night a deputy responded, calmed the man down and sent him home, she said.
Elwin confirmed that incident.
Another clerk at the Littlerock Grocery, Byung Kim, said the man was a retired corrections officer at the Cedar Creek Corrections Center. DOC spokesman Chad Lewis confirmed that the man was an officer at Cedar Creek from 1992 until his retirement in 2007.
Kim said the man used to come into the store to talk about his wife’s battle. Kim said he has known the man for about seven years.
“He’s a real nice guy,” Kim said. “He helped people out.” After his wife died, “he pretty much lost it,” Kim added.