Never let your guard down.
That appears to be the most important lesson learned from a 2009 shooting that left a Pierce County sheriff’s sergeant wounded and a deputy and another man dead.
The Pierce County Sheriff’s Department’s Board of Professional Standards reached that conclusion after reviewing the Dec. 21 incident in which deputy Kent Mundell and Pierce County resident David Crable died after Crable pulled out a gun and opened fire on Mundell and Sgt. Nick Hausner.
Mundell returned fire, killing Crable, before losing consciousness. He died a week later. Hausner survived his wounds and returned to duty.
The board, which reviewed the shooting in March, ruled Mundell justified in shooting Crable and recommended the late deputy and Hausner for the department’s Medal of Valor for their actions that night in a house near Tanwax Lake.
But it pointed out that deputies must be alert at all times.
“Also noted was the fact that tactically, officers cannot let the suspect out of their sight; nor should they let their partner out of their sight,” according to minutes of the review hearing. “It was felt that officers sometimes are problem solving and are being too nice and accommodating with suspects.”
The News Tribune obtained the minutes through a public records request.
The board’s conclusions instigated no new policies within the Sheriff’s Department, but Sheriff Paul Pastor in the days after the shooting urged vigilance on the part of his deputies.
“We have asked our people to be alert and careful,” Pastor said earlier this month. “But we do not intend to let fear dictate how we police the community.”
The incident began as an “unwanted person/domestic violence” call.
Crable’s brother had called deputies to have his drunken sibling removed from the house.
“The two brothers were arguing about the fact that the suspect was temporarily staying at the residence and was not making any attempt to find a job or another place to live,” the minutes state.
Mundell and Hausner, driving in separate cars, both responded to the residence.
“Sergeant Hausner said he ran a check on the suspect before entering the house but nothing came up,” the minutes state.
It’s unclear why. Crable had convictions in California for obstructing officers and resisting arrest and in May 2009 was charged in Pierce County Superior Court with malicious mischief and fourth-degree assault.
Things calmed down soon after Haunser and Mundell arrived, the report states.
“The suspect appeared to understand and was cooperative, calm and amenable to leaving the residence and asked to collect some of his personal belongings from upstairs in the loft above the kitchen,” the report states.
Hausner and Mundell said OK and remained in the kitchen talking to Crable’s brother, who said his sibling shouldn’t be driving anywhere because he’d had too much to drink, the report states.
Hausner said he’d drive the suspect where he wanted to go and walked into the adjacent living room to tell him so.
That’s when Crable came downstairs, pulled a gun and starting shooting at Hausner from close range.
“Sergeant Hausner said that he was not able to reach his own weapon and felt the impact to his face and fell backwards into the doorway of a bedroom,” the report states. “He said he tried to get up but someone pulled him into the bedroom and closed the door.”
Crable’s teenage daughter, who was in the house, tried to grab the gun out of her father’s hand, but he shrugged her off and went to the kitchen.
The girlfriend of Crable’s brother said she pulled Hausner into her bedroom after he was hit and heard three to five shots thereafter.
“She said Sergeant Hausner called out for the other officer and finally made it to his feet and went to the kitchen to aid his partner,” the report states. “She observed Sergeant Hausner holding Deputy Mundell and calling his name and applying pressure to the wound and could hear a neighbor yelling to call 911.”
Crable was dead on the floor nearby, she said.
“She stated that prior to the suspect going up into the loft, he didn’t act especially crazy or mad nor did she hear him say anything during the incident,” the report states.
Adam Lynn: 253-597-8644 email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/crime