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News / Clark County News

Man accused of shooting Vancouver officer dies

James Sapp attempted suicide Thursday afternoon in his jail cell

By Emily Gillespie, Columbian Breaking News Reporter, and
Patty Hastings, Columbian Social Services, Demographics, Faith
Published: July 18, 2014, 12:00am

The Clark County Jail inmate accused of shooting a Vancouver police officer during a routine traffic stop last month died Friday, according to the sheriff’s office.

James T. Sapp, 48, attempted suicide in his jail cell Thursday and was interrupted by jail personnel who found him at 1:30 p.m., according to the Clark County Sheriff’s Office. He was taken to a local hospital, where his condition was not released. The sheriff’s office said that he was pronounced dead at 12:45 p.m. Friday.

The Clark County Medical Examiner’s Office is investigating the cause and manner of Sapp’s death and the regional major crimes unit is investigating the incident.

The sheriff’s office would not release details about how Sapp attempted suicide. Dispatch logs for the Clark Regional Emergency Services Agency, however, show a cardiac or respiratory arrest death by hanging was reported at the jail, 770 W. 13th St., at 1:40 p.m. Thursday. Four minutes later, there was a report of a “suicidal subject” at the jail.

Sapp was accused of shooting motorcycle traffic officer Dustin Goudschaal seven times on June 30 after Goudschaal pulled over the black Dodge Ram truck that Sapp was driving near Northeast 34th Street and 162nd Avenue in east Vancouver.

Goudschaal was shot twice in the head, once in his ballistic vest and in his arm, shoulder and leg, according to Clark County Prosecutor Tony Golik.

Sapp had been held at the jail on a $5 million bail since his arrest shortly after the shooting.

Sapp, a purported white supremacist, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to the charges against him — which included attempted murder, attempted robbery, unlawful possession of a firearm, assault and possession of methamphetamine and heroin.

His trial was scheduled for Dec. 8.

Sapp family speaks

Walnut Grove Church Pastor Michael Baca reached out to The Columbian on behalf of the Sapp family. Baca, who has known the family for two years, was at Sapp’s bedside at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center and prayed over him when he died. His family, following Sapp’s wishes, decided to take him off life support, Baca said.

James Sapp is survived by his wife of 10 years, Leah, and a 22-year-old son. They are heartbroken over both the shooting and the attempted suicide, Baca said.

On Wednesday, Sapp expressed remorse for what happened and told his wife he wanted Baca to visit him in jail.

“I don’t agree with what he did at all,” Baca said, adding that pastors listen to anyone who asks for help.

” ‘I need to make things right with God.’ Those are his exact words,” Baca said. “He knew he was going to be in prison for the rest of his life. He was accepting that. Obviously, (Thursday) something changed.”

At the time of the shooting Sapp had a warrant out for his arrest and was attempting to evade police, Baca said.

“He’s not a monster. He was a person dealing with a lot of issues,” Baca said. “There was something inside of him that would click on that had very powerful control over him.”

Several years ago, while working at a construction site, Sapp fell off of a roof and was seriously injured. After that, he began seeing a doctor for brain issues — something the physicians were discussing Thursday at PeaceHealth, Baca said. After taking pain medication, Sapp began using drugs.

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“That was a big piece of a lot of his trouble,” Baca said. “Yes, he had a checkered background, but he loved his family and wife.”

Jail suicides

If ruled a suicide, it would be the first suicide the jail has seen since 2012.

Last year was the first year since 2006 with no suicides; between 2007 and 2012, a total of 13 inmates committed suicide.

In response to the suicides, commissioners in 2012 approved $545,000 to upgrade the jail to help prevent suicide. That work includes replacing all 42 shower heads with shorter-nozzled models, and replacing at least 356 protruding fire sprinklers, which was expensive because it required cutting into walls and moving pipes.

Columbian Breaking News Reporter
Columbian Social Services, Demographics, Faith