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Whidbey Island man dies after fighting police and holing up in burning motel room

A 66-year-old Whidbey Island man died Thanksgiving morning after fighting with a police officer at an Ocean Shores motel and then setting his room on fire.

The name of the man was not released Thursday.

According to Ocean Shores police, the owner of the Westerly Motel called police about 8:30 a.m. Thursday, saying a guest had taken pictures off the walls of his room, set them in the parking lot and then driven away.

Deputy Police Chief Russ Fitts gave this account of what happened next:

When an officer arrived, the man was back in his room. The officer accompanied the motel owner to the room, intending to evict the man.

Receiving no answer to knocks on the door, the officer and the owner let themselves in.

The man was not in sight, but after a quick search, the officer found him standing behind the shower curtain in the bathroom, holding two 8-to-10-inch kitchen knives.

The man lunged toward the officer and owner.

“The officer shoved the owner out of the room and ordered the subject to drop the knives while he retreated and pointed his Taser at him,” Fitts said. “The subject dropped the knives but continued after the officer.”

The officer struck the man with his Taser, but he was still able to kick the officer and throw a chair at him. The officer backed out of the room, and the man slammed the door.

The officer called for backup from the Grays Harbor Sheriff’s Department and the Washington State Patrol. Officers tried without success to talk to the man.

“After about 25 minutes, officers spotted flames and smoke coming from within the room,” Fitts said. “Officers initially broke windows in an effort to contact the subject and were able to see him lying on the floor.”

Officers forced open the door, pulled the man from the burning room and began performing CPR as the Ocean Shores Fire Department arrived.

The man was taken to Gray’s Harbor Community Hospital, where he later died, Fitts said.

Firefighters put the fire out before it did serious damage, Fitts said.

The Gray’s Harbor Coroner’s office will conduct an autopsy to determine the cause of death.

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