Sheriff: Man shot by deputy was armed burglar

Deputy has 20 years of service with Clark County

By Craig Brown, Columbian Managing Editor

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The man shot and killed by a Clark County sheriff’s deputy Sunday was in the process of burglarizing sheds and garages when he pointed a gun at Deputy Steve Fox, according to the sheriff’s office.

Fox, a 20-year veteran of the Clark County Sheriff’s Office, then drew his weapon and shot Paul J. Kolar several times, according to a more detailed account of the incident released Thursday morning.

“There is little doubt Deputy Fox’s quick reaction when threatened with deadly force by this armed and dangerous individual likely saved Deputy Fox’s life,” Sheriff Chuck Atkins said in a statement.

The incident took place at about 8 a.m. Sunday near a home that sits on 5.75 acres just outside of Ridgefield. At 7:50 a.m. a homeowner in the 300 block of Northwest 289th Street called 911 to report that a suspicious man driving a black Jeep was on his property.

Fox responded and found the man standing outside the sport-utility vehicle in a field away from the house. As Fox approached, the man raised a pistol, later determined to be loaded, and pointed it at him, according to the sheriff’s office. Investigators were unable to determine if Kolar fired, but Fox shot several rounds that struck Kolar.

Medics responded, but were unable to resuscitate Kolar, 37, who is originally from North Idaho. He was pronounced dead at a hospital.

An investigation by regional major crimes team detectives showed that Kolar was also armed with a second loaded pistol and a large knife.

The Jeep Kolar was driving had been stolen from La Grande, Ore., deputies said, and an investigation showed Kolar had been burglarizing outbuildings on the homeowner’s property before Deputy Fox arrived. Other stolen property was found in the Jeep, too, the sheriff’s office said.

The Jeep was mired in a muddy field at the time of the shooting and had to be extricated with a tow truck once the on-site investigation ended, said sheriff’s Sgt. Fred Neiman.

So far, investigators have been unable to determine why Kolar was in the area on Sunday.

According to an obituary authored by his family, Kolar was born in St. Maries, Idaho, and grew up in nearby Plummer, where he graduated from Lakeside High School in 1997. He served in the U.S. Navy in Hawaii and later studied art at Eastern Oregon University.

He also had a criminal past. In 2002, while awaiting transportation to an Idaho prison, he and a conspirator broke out of the Benewah County Jail in St. Maries and fled to Oregon, where they robbed a bank in Elgin, near La Grande, while armed with a shotgun. They were arrested after a police chase, and Kolar served time in prison.

As is standard procedure in officer-involved shootings, Deputy Fox has been placed on paid critical-incident leave while the investigation proceeds. Neiman said the amount of critical leave time varies from case to case, but he expects Fox will soon be returned to duty.