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East Vancouver residents shaken by fatal shooting involving sheriff’s deputies

Multiple homes on 49th Street were struck by bullets early Sunday morning; suspect in chase was killed by Clark County sheriff's deputies

By , Columbian staff reporter
8 Photos
Lorenz Soriano of Vancouver looks over three bullet holes, right, in his bathroom Monday afternoon, Oct. 18, 2021, after Clark County sheriff’s deputies fired at a suspect the agency said was armed with a handgun early Sunday morning.
Lorenz Soriano of Vancouver looks over three bullet holes, right, in his bathroom Monday afternoon, Oct. 18, 2021, after Clark County sheriff’s deputies fired at a suspect the agency said was armed with a handgun early Sunday morning. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

As Lorenz Soriano looked at the bullet holes in the walls of his bedroom, in his shower and next to his toilet, he couldn’t help but wonder what would’ve happened to him if he’d been home in the early hours of Sunday morning, instead of at work.

Some residents of the Oak Creek Mobile Home Park in east Vancouver were still shaken Monday while they recalled waking to gunshots tearing through their houses. The bullets came as Clark County sheriff’s deputies fatally shot an assault suspect whom the agency said was armed with a handgun.

Although Soriano, 21, wasn’t home, his sister and grandmother were. His grandmother, Teresita Lanoria, described her granddaughter coming into her room after she’d heard the gunshots and the two of them flattening on the floor. As she recounted that morning, Soriano asked her several times if she was OK.

Lanoria, 62, said Monday she is “still in shock” and doesn’t feel safe to stay home alone anymore.

Soriano’s house had about 10 bullet holes in it. Some of them struck the family’s washer and dryer. They didn’t discover that damage until they started a load of laundry, only for water to pour all over the floor.

He has since taken some time off work to help his grandmother and his sister.

“I was scared for my family,” he said. “I’m thankful everyone’s fine.”

Early morning incident

At about 2:20 a.m. Sunday, deputies tried to stop a car associated with a person suspected of first-degree assault with a handgun, according to a sheriff’s office press release. The motorist didn’t stop, so deputies gave chase. Deputies performed a pursuit intervention technique, or PIT, maneuver, and the suspect’s SUV skidded to a halt on a berm along Northeast 49th Street.

Then, according to deputies, the suspect got out of the car armed with a handgun. When he wouldn’t comply with orders, deputies opened fire.

The suspect’s vehicle, a white SUV, sat with its grill on the sidewalk and the bumper at the top of the earthen berm. The berm borders a mobile home park, with several units less than 10 feet away from the shooting scene.

Although the sheriff’s office wouldn’t comment Monday on the specifics of Sunday’s shooting, spokesman Sgt. Brent Waddell said that the agency is always concerned about rounds striking someone or something unintentionally.

“Unfortunately, we (law enforcement) often do not get to control when an officer-involved shooting may occur,” Waddell wrote in an email to The Columbian. “We are trained to be aware of the backdrop, crossfire, and surroundings, however in a split-second life-and-death decision, deputies have to weigh the risk to themselves and others and the totality of circumstances when applying force.”

Waddell said residents whose homes were damaged can receive compensation or have the damage fixed through the county.

The sheriff’s office said the suspect was located a short distance away Sunday morning. He was dead. A handgun was recovered nearby. Soriano said his sister told him that she could hear a man outside their house, wheezing. She later saw him in their driveway, where it appeared he’d tried to crawl under their car.

When Soriano arrived home from work at around 4:30 a.m., he said the man was still laying dead in his driveway, uncovered. According to Soriano, authorities didn’t remove the body until around 11 a.m.

Soriano said he looked at the man’s face to see if he recognized him. He didn’t.

Mourning a death

On Monday, a memorial for the man, bedecked in red and gold, stood in the grass where his SUV had been stopped. The man’s name has not been released by authorities.

The League of United Latin American Citizens Council released a statement Monday mourning the man’s death.

“No matter the reason and no matter the cause, the family has lost a child and the world has lost the contribution from this child,” the statement said. “The time will come for resolution and responsibility for the loss of life, but for today our hearts are heavy and our love deepens for our community.”

Residents’ reactions

Another neighbor whose home was struck described hearing a bullet ricochet around her kitchen, into her dining room and then into her laundry room. The woman, who asked to remain anonymous, said she hit the floor and stayed there for about 10 minutes before she dared to get back up.

She said she’d gotten up to use the restroom and had just laid back down when the gunshots began. She counted seven bullets that hit her house, although she only found one bullet inside.

A 12-year-old boy, who lives with his family a few houses down from the shooting scene, said he heard the shots early in the morning. At some point, he said police came by and told them to stay inside until noon.

By 10 a.m. Sunday, more than a dozen Vancouver police and sheriff’s office vehicles were on the scene, as well as a truck from the city of Vancouver’s Water Division. Northeast 49th Street remained closed between 112th and 122nd for most of the morning. Hours later, a Clark County Sheriff’s Office vehicle was towed from the scene.

The Southwest Washington Regional Independent Investigation Team is investigating.

Involved deputies were placed on critical incident leave following standard protocol.