LONGVIEW — A 28-year-old Washington State Patrol trooper died at a Seattle hospital Tuesday evening after he was struck by a fleeing motorist on Interstate 5 near Chehalis, the agency announced.
Justin R. Schaffer had served seven years in the state patrol, said agency spokesman Will Finn.
“This is a time of enormous grief for our agency family and the community he served,” Finn said in a prepared statement.
Schaffer died at Harborview Medical Center at 6:30 p.m. after he was taken there by helicopter. He’d been struck during the mid afternoon near Milepost 79 in the Chehalis area.
The trooper’s death in the line of duty marks the 30th in the Washington State Patrol’s history.
Southbound lanes were closed for about four hours, and traffic was detoured at exit 82 onto Airport Road and through Chehalis.
The suspect is a 39-year-old Thurston County resident who is accused of robbing a Mini Mart the day before and threatening the clerk and customer with a stun gun. The store clerk followed the suspect outside and tried to take his picture, a spokesperson said. The suspect escaped in a truck and drove it towards the clerk and fled.
According to KOMO, on Tuesday Thurston County deputies spotted the truck on I-5 near Maytown and began a pursuit on the southbound lanes. Finn said the motorist was barricaded on I-5 near mile post 76 until Thurston County deputies captured him.
It was not immediately clear Tuesday night exactly how Schaffer got hit.