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News / Clark County News

Off-duty police officer found dead in woods

He died of apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound

By John Branton
Published: January 19, 2011, 12:00am

Police officers found an off-duty police officer dead in a wooded area Tuesday night, several hours after he fired gunshots and threatened suicide at a home on Northeast Schauer Drive, a short road off Osman and Berry roads a few miles east of Battle Ground.

At The Columbian’s deadline, a sheriff’s sergeant said the officer, age 40, was believed to be distraught about marital problems.

Officials said the man was a law enforcement officer, but didn’t immediately confirm his name or the agency he worked for. Public records say the home is owned by Douglas and Brigette Deaver.

Officials were notified at 4:09 p.m. of a domestic disturbance at the home, and that a gun was fired, but no one was reported injured.

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Before leaving the home, the man had made suicidal statements, according to emergency radio traffic monitored at The Columbian.

Clark County sheriff’s deputies radioed that a trained negotiator was en route to the home, and that they had tried to make contact with the man using loudspeakers and by calling his cell phone.

Officials said the distraught man had been drinking malt liquor. He reportedly cut his chest and legs, fired two gunshots and put a gun to his head several times.

After threatening to kill himself, “He walked off into the woods with his gun,” said sheriff’s Sgt. Tony Barnes.

Deputies brought a tracking dog to the scene and an armored Bearcat vehicle.

Shortly after 5 p.m., patrol deputies said Southwest Washington Regional SWAT officers would take control of the situation because it was getting dark and the man had fired shots inside and outside the house.

He was being sought in a large area of wooded terrain.

Officers asked emergency dispatchers to see if a military helicopter with forward-looking infrared equipment that senses radiation and body heat was available to pinpoint the man’s location.

Officers also were working to “ping” the man’s cell phone, using its GPS device to determine his exact location.

At 6:30 p.m., officers were working to clear areas around the home to make sure the man wasn’t there, and seeking to learn what weapon or radio he took with him.

There was some indication that the search could take some time. Officers asked that SWAT officers with the Gresham, Ore., Police Department be placed on standby in case the ordeal became lengthy and the first shift of local SWAT officers became wet, cold and tired.

In addition, if a gunfight had erupted, it would have been especially difficult for the man’s fellow officers, said sheriff’s Sgt. Chad Rothenberger.

It was raining and the temperature was 39 degrees, Barnes said.

Shortly before 8:30 p.m., officers radioed that they had detected “a couple of hot spots” by using night vision, a thermal imaging camera or similar equipment, and said one image appeared to be human rather than animal.

At 8:35 p.m., an officer radioed that something, possibly the man’s body, had been seen by a creek. The officer said they could detect a fading heat signature and that they planned to walk down and investigate.

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Other officers also were looking through scopes and said they could see the man’s hands and jeans and possibly a self-inflicted wound, and no sign that he was breathing or alive.

“We’re making commands to him to see if we can get results,” an officer radioed.

Officers approached warily in the event the man shot at them, but later said they had found him dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. Officers called for police detectives, who will investigate the case.

John Branton: 360-735-4513 or john.branton@columbian.com.

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