The gunfire spread across two miles. It was aimed at more than a dozen people, killed a longtime resident, hit 13 houses and left a Puyallup neighborhood shaken.
“I think it’s pretty obvious that evil came to town yesterday,” Police Chief Bryan Jeter said Wednesday.
Police on Wednesday were still counting the number of bullets a lone gunman fired during an eight-minute rampage that targeted officers and bystanders.
One fatally struck Richard Johnson, a 71-year-old man who owned six rental properties in the city and was known as the unofficial neighborhood watchdog.
Nathan Terault, 34, of Tacoma, was arrested Tuesday after the shooting spree. Police allege he fired at two families with children, an elderly couple, four officers and a handful of others during the rampage.
Police said Terault used at least two handguns, one that was stolen in Lakewood and carried in a holster.
Johnson was the only person hit. Terault was shot in the left thigh by a plainclothes detective and pinned beneath a patrol car after a short chase following the gunfire.
Investigators had not figured out a motive for the spree, and did not know what brought Terault to Puyallup. He has a lengthy criminal record and was under supervision by the state Department of Corrections.
Police said the incident began when an undercover officer spotted Terault’s Volkswagon driving recklessly about 1:45 p.m. but was unable to pull him over. The car later was found abandoned in the 1300 block of Fourth Avenue Southwest.
It’s unclear why Terault left the car and began walking.
He ended up in the 500 block of 14th Avenue Southwest and was rifling through Johnson’s pickup truck, which was parked on the street, when the homeowner spotted him and approached him.
At least one witness told detectives Terault immediately shot Johnson, who was remodeling the rental home while he lived with his wife of 50 years on the property. Police said there was no connection between Tenault and Johnson.
Minutes later, about 2:30 p.m., calls began flooding 911 dispatchers with reports of gunshots.
A woman who saw the shooting told police she closed her front door and went to bring her children in from the backyard when Terault began shooting at them. Bullets hit the house and fence.
The gunman then tried to steal a car, but a woman and her teenage children came out of their home to confront him. Terault shot at them, police said.
He continued on, shooting at another house, before dropping a handgun and ammunition in the 1300 block of Sixth Avenue Southwest.
Within a minute of the fatal shooting, officers arrived on scene and were shot at, apparently from a second gun. Bullets hit the patrol car.
Police said Terault then ambushed a woman who was pulling into her garage and fired at least one shot. They said the woman handed over the keys to her SUV and Terault drove through her garage door.
As he fled, police said, Terault continuously fired at officers. He aimed a gun at a man in the 1200 block of 13th Street Southwest but did not fire, police said.
Officers temporarily lost sight of Terault, who showed back up near 15th Street Southwest and Fairview Drive. Police said he fired four times at officers. Bullets hit three more houses.
Terault then crashed the stolen SUV into a line of parked cars near the Washington State Fairgrounds and ran to a nearby minivan with an elderly couple inside.
He tried to hijack the van and shot into the vehicle. The couple was not hit.
At Ninth Avenue Southwest and Fairview Drive, a plainclothes detective fired two rounds at Terault from 80 yards away. Terault was struck in the left leg.
Seconds later, another officer drove a police SUV over the curb and hit Terault, pinning him to the ground. Police were able to get his gun, which investigators believe he was trying to reload, and arrested him.
Two of the four officers who provided medical aid to Terault were officers shot at during the pursuit, police Capt. Scott Engle said.
“It’s simply a miracle, quite frankly, we didn’t have more officers or more citizens hit,” Engle said. “It’s clear to us he had an evil intent. The impact of this could have been much greater.”
Terault remained in serious condition Wednesday and was being watched by police in the hospital. It was not known when he will be booked into jail or criminally charged.
Terault has prior convictions for drive-by shooting, unlawful possession of a firearm, theft of a firearm, theft and possession of stolen property, court records show.
Detectives continued canvassing the neighborhood, interviewing numerous witnesses, and processed eight crime scenes until 3 a.m. Wednesday. They resumed work at dawn, determining at least 13 houses were hit with gunfire.
Anyone who saw the incident and had not spoken with police was asked to call the department tip line at 253-770-3343.
Four officers were placed on administrative leave, which is standard procedure.
“Our focus now is on healing the community and making sure our officers are taken care of,” Jeter said.
Stacia Glenn: 253-597-8653
A community meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday (Aug. 12) at Aylen Junior High School to give updates about the investigation, offer counseling resources and answer questions.