Wednesday, February 8, 2023
Feb. 8, 2023

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Vancouver apartment fire where two were found dead investigated as murder, arson

Neighbors reported gunshots before police arrived to find building on fire

By , Columbian Assistant Metro Editor

A Saturday apartment fire, in which two men were found dead, is being investigated as a murder and arson, according to court records.

A search warrant affidavit filed Thursday details the investigation into the fire, which damaged four apartments in Vancouver’s Maplewood neighborhood.

It lists the suspect as unknown.

Vancouver police were dispatched at about 12:30 a.m. to 2904 E. 16th St., Unit B, after several callers reported hearing gunshots.

A downstairs neighbor said she believed the shooting occurred in Unit B. The 911 dispatcher heard what she believed was additional gunshots while taking the call. The neighbor then reported smoke coming from the unit, and she said she and her boyfriend were evacuating their apartment, according to the affidavit.

The first arriving patrol unit found Unit B engulfed in flames. Officers evacuated the rest of the neighbors and assisted with road closure and scene protection.

The Vancouver Fire Department arrived within minutes to find heavy smoke coming from the front and back of the second-story unit, and a second alarm was requested.

Firefighters on the second floor discovered the fire had moved into the attic and requested additional hose lines and firefighters. Crews had the fire out within 30 minutes but remained on scene for several hours, the agency previously said in a news release.

While extinguishing the blaze, firefighters found a man dead in the living room and another man dead in a rear bedroom, the search warrant affidavit states.

Authorities have not yet released the identities of the dead men, though court records indicate at least one lived in Unit B.

Fire personnel said it appeared both suffered gunshot wounds to the head. A firearm was located near the body in the bedroom, according to the affidavit. The Clark County Medical Examiner’s Office has not yet released its findings on cause and manner of death.

Neighbors who heard the shooting told investigators they didn’t hear or see anyone fleeing the scene. Fire personnel said the apartment’s front door was locked with a deadbolt, according to the affidavit.

A caretaker for the unit’s primary occupant told investigators she saw him about two hours before the fire. She said the man had been subleasing his apartment for about six months to a roommate, who potentially had mental health issues. The client recently told her that his roommate had become threatening toward him and talked about killing people, the affidavit says. She said they had discussed having a background check performed on the roommate or searching his room for weapons.

She said the two men “had been arguing more lately and indicated that the roommate relationship had deteriorated greatly over the last few days,” the affidavit reads.

The Vancouver Police Department’s major crimes and arson teams, Vancouver Fire Department, Washington State Patrol and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are investigating.

The Red Cross was contacted to assist the residents of the other three apartments in the building.