(Steve Dipaola for the Columbian)
An intruder who tore through a cedar fence, walked through an unlocked back door and then burst through a locked bedroom door was shot and killed early Saturday by a homeowner in the Roads End neighborhood of East Minnehaha.
The intruder died at the scene, according to Sgt. Kevin Allais of the Major Crimes Unit of the Clark County Sheriff’s Office. The intruder was later identified by the Clark County Medical Examiner’s Office as Christopher Jon Billings, 42, of Kansas City, Mo. Anyone with information regarding Billings and any ties he may have to this area is asked to call 1-877-CRIME11 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We don’t know him, there’s no local history, no criminal history. We don’t know why he was here,” said Allais.
It was the second shooting in Saturday’s early morning hours. Just after midnight, Vancouver police responded to a drive-by shooting in the 3300 block of East 18th Street, in the Maplewood neighborhood. A 19-year-old man was injured when struck by two bullets. That shooting is considered gang-related.
Police happened to be on the trail of Billings, the Roads End intruder, in the minutes before he was shot. That’s because a Washington State Patrol trooper involved in a routine traffic stop less than half a block away, on Northeast 54th Avenue just north of state Highway 500, witnessed a male fitting Billings’ description “stumbling down the sidewalk mumbling incoherently,” according to a police press release.
The trooper called his dispatch center, “fearing that the male was a danger to himself.” State and Vancouver police were hunting for that man when news of the shooting reached them.
A homeowner had called 911 to say he had shot an intruder. Public records list the homeowners at 3719 N.E. 54th Avenue as Robert and Janice Blakemore, ages 66 and 61, respectively. Neighbors confirmed this.
Allais, who was on the scene Saturday morning, said the call came at approximately 2:15 a.m. He said Billings, although stumbling, managed to break through a cedar fence behind the driveway of the home and went into the back yard. There he found an unlocked back door leading inside.
Meanwhile, dogs in the home were barking and 911 was called. The husband and wife locked their bedroom door. Allais said they were on the phone with a 911 dispatcher when Billings “burst through the locked bedroom door.” That’s when the husband “used deadly force,” Allais said. When police arrived, they found Billings dead on the bedroom floor.
The Clark County Sheriff’s Office Major Crimes Unit and the Vancouver Police Major Crimes Unit are investigating, Allais said.
Once their investigation is complete, all the facts will be submitted to the Clark County Prosecutor’s Office. But, he said, the incident appears to be a matter of basic self-defense. The suspect and the homeowner did not know each other, Allais said.
The 911 recording will probably be released Monday or Tuesday, Allais said. Police are eager to figure out why Billings was stumbling down a Vancouver street in the middle of the night.
Neighbors had differing opinions about their neighborhood’s safety. Erin Wriston, who rents out the house next door, said the traffic is always increasing, but otherwise things feel pretty safe and quiet.
“Who knew it was going to be this kind of day?” she said while doing yard work in her rental.
“I don’t think this is any worse than any other neighborhood in Vancouver,” said Tim Milligan, who has lived up the street for 33 years.
Jeannine Compton, who has rented next door to Wriston for eight years, feels differently. “For the past three or four years there are more ‘strays,’ I mean people wandering around for no good reason,” she said. “I’ve yelled at people to get out of the bushes. That’s why I have three dogs at home. It’s too close for comfort.”
Compton’s son, 16-year-old Thomas Compton-Jones, said he was up playing video games at around 2 a.m. when he heard “a person talking to himself outside. I didn’t pay attention. Then I thought I heard a crash.” Minutes later he realized there were flashing lights outside, he said.
Earlier Saturday night, Vancouver Police were dispatched to a “shots fired” call in the 3300 block of East 18th Street. Upon arrival they found 19-year-old Jose Reyes injured from being struck by two bullets. The injuries are not life threatening. The Safe Streets Gang Task Force was called in to investigate. Vancouver Police said there would likely be no more information until Monday or Tuesday.