Washougal standoff: Instinct to help becomes instinct to survive

Man knocks on door of burning house, greeted with gunfire

By Eric Florip, Columbian transportation & environment reporter

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Bobby Bean didn’t hesitate when he noticed flames coming from a house on F Place in Washougal on Wednesday morning. He stopped to help.

Bean pulled over the 1967 Mustang he had planned to take to the shop that day, and ran to check on anyone who might be inside. He called 9-1-1 at 8:07 a.m., then knocked on the door of the burning home. It was locked. Another passerby knocked on the window, Bean said.

That’s when it became clear that the man inside the house was not interested in being rescued. He looked at Bean through the window.

“The guy said to get out, and started shooting,” Bean said.

As the man opened fire, Bean turned and ran, hiding behind a Jeep across the street, he said. As he moved to get away, he saw a Washougal police car with a shattered window, apparently hit by one of the bullets. Bean called 9-1-1 again to report what was happening.

Bean couldn’t say exactly how many gunshots he heard initially. He’s not even sure how long he took cover behind the Jeep.

“It seemed like a hundred years,” he said.

Bean could only speculate as to what the man’s motives were. But Bean didn’t believe he was the shooter’s target.

“He chose not to shoot me this morning. He looked at me,” Bean said. “I feel lucky.”

Bean is a Washougal resident who works as a stylist at Vancouver’s On The Fringe salon. He also fixes classic cars, including the Mustang that remained near the burning house — inside the perimeter police blocked off — even after Bean had fled.

A few hours after the first shots flew out of the house, Bean stood outside a gas station at 32nd Street, unhurt but still shaken by the incident. He and others watched from a distance as a dark column of smoke still billowed from the property.

At one point, Bean quietly shook his head. What started as an instinct to help, he said, quickly turned into an instinct to survive.

“It makes me think about the firefighters who do that every day,” Bean said. “They run up to a house to save someone, and you never know what’s there.”