Gunman dies in shootout near Issaquah High School

September 24, 2011

By Warren Kagarise

Guardian One, the King County Sheriff's Office helicopter, takes off from the Issaquah Community Center lawn during the search for a gunman. By Christina Lords

UPDATED — 8:45 a.m. Sept. 26, 2011

Issaquah police shot and killed a gunman Saturday after police said the man opened fire near downtown Issaquah schools as children and spectators gathered for sporting events.

The man parked a car on Front Street South at Newport Way Southwest and then headed on foot, carrying two rifles — including a bolt-action hunting rifle — to the area near Clark Elementary and Issaquah High schools at about 11:15 a.m. on a muggy fall day.

Police said the man menacingly pointed firearms at passers-by as he headed about a half-mile to Clark Elementary School.

Witnesses said the man attempted to break into a parked, unoccupied car in the school parking lot.

The man fired the initial shot at about the same time.

The man continued moving across campus and attempted to break into the cab of a back-hoe parked at the school. He failed, and more shots rang out.

Issaquah police officers converged on the campus. Investigators said the man then dropped to the ground on a service road and started firing at officers.

In response, four officers returned fire and hit the gunman several times. He died at the scene.

King County Sheriff Office’s spokesman Sgt. John Urquhart said no other injuries occurred as a result of the incident. People sought refuge beneath the bleachers at Issaquah High School.

“We don’t know why he was doing it. We don’t know who he is for sure,” he said.

The man, a 51-year-old Maple Valley resident, is believed to have acted alone. (The man’s name is due to be released by the King County Medical Examiner’s Office on Monday.)

Police block off Newport Way Southwest and Southeast Clark Street as investigators scour the gunman's abandoned vehicle for evidence. By Christina Lords

Urquhart said investigators do not yet know a motive for the gunman.

“Because he was on the move, we were getting reports from everybody, so it was hard to tell exactly how many people were involved,” Urquhart said. “As far as we know at this point, just him, just the one man.”

Police investigated the man’s abandoned car near a downtown intersection for several hours after the shooting.

The sheriff’s office is leading the investigation of the officer-involved shooting. Issaquah Police Chief Paul Ayers asked the sheriff’s office to conduct the investigation into the incident and the shooting death.

The sheriff’s office Major Crimes Unit is leading the investigation. The team also includes detectives from the Bellevue Police Department and a liaison from Issaquah Police Department.

Officials placed the officers involved in the shooting death on paid administrative leave — a standard procedure in situations such as the shooting death.

The incident occurred during a club football game for youth players at the high school. Liberty High School’s cross country team had just completed a practice run and stopped in the Clark Elementary School parking lot to rest.

The gunman fired shots near the events but no one at the events came into the line of fire, Urquhart said.

“Lots of people up there, lots of kids,” Urquhart said. “This could have been a lot worse.”

Issaquah resident Jason Gerth said shots from the gunman narrowly missed he and his friends as they walked near Clark Elementary School. Gerth said they could not see the shooter, but felt a bullet slice through the air.

“I could feel it going past my head,” he said.

They found refuge in a middle-aged couple’s garage near the schools.

“I’m guessing they had already heard about the situation because they were waiting outside,” Gerth said. “When they heard the shots, my friend Tony asked, ‘Can I come in your garage?’ They looked at all of us and said, ‘Yeah, get your asses in our garage.’ We got in, they closed the door and we just hung out in there and called up all of our friends.”

Sgt. John Urquhart, King County Sheriff's Office spokesman, briefs reporters at the scene Saturday. By Warren Kagarise

Issaquah resident Henry Honig said his wife and stepson hid beneath the high school bleachers. Honig’s wife called as he headed to the football game.

“Don’t come,” she told him. “There’s a gunman.”

Cyrus Krohn, a downtown resident, heard the shots late Saturday morning as he walked home from Fischer Meats along Front Street North.

“I heard eight or 10 pop, pop, pop, pop, pop,” he said as he directed traffic at Second Avenue Southeast and Southeast Bush Street near Issaquah High School.

Initially, Krohn thought the gunshots came from the Issaquah Sportsmen’s Club behind the high school, but the swift police response changed his mind.

“I’ve seen SWAT vehicles, I’ve seen guys in armored gear and helmets,” he said.

Issaquah Middle School student Abby Jones, 11, and a friend had been playing on a street near the schools. They heard gunshots and watched police vehicles barrel down Second Avenue Southeast.

“We started counting police cars — at 25, we got bored,” she said.

Then, she called her mother to let her know what had happened.

“‘That’s a lot of excitement. Are you sure?'” Abby recounted her mother telling her. “‘I’m dead serious,'” she told her mother.

The incident and ensuing investigation caused traffic to slow through a crawl through downtown Issaquah and along streets leading to the city from the south.

A sheriff’s office investigator said a robot inspected the abandoned car near the 400 block of Front Street South. The vehicle is a 2011 silver Kia sedan with California license plates.

Investigators located some ammunition in the vehicle, and some shell casings and a gas can nearby. Police also discovered three guns in the trunk, including a pellet gun and antique rifle.

A King County Sheriff's Office robot examines the trunk of a car abandoned by the gunman. By Kathleen R. Merrill

Officers limited motorists traveling to downtown Issaquah and restricted traffic to residents.

Police closed Second Avenue Southeast from Front Street South to East Sunset Way, and Front Street South from Second Avenue Southeast to Newport Way Northwest, for several hours Saturday afternoon and evening. The city reopened the routes to traffic by 7:25 p.m.

Sara Niegowski, spokeswoman for the Issaquah School District, said police asked administrators to cancel weekend events at Clark Elementary, Issaquah High and Tiger Mountain Community High schools — another campus near the shooting scene. The incident is not expected to impact the schools’ schedules Monday, she added.

Reporter Christina Lords and Managing Editor Kathleen R. Merrill contributed to this report.

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35 Responses to “Gunman dies in shootout near Issaquah High School”

  1. bryan on September 24th, 2011 12:42 pm

    helicopters just landed on the community center – traffic is a mess. police with guns drawn are blocking sunset @ 2nd. wow.

  2. Susan Hanson on September 24th, 2011 12:47 pm

    Do you think it could have been the gun club over by the highschool?

  3. Emilie Leming on September 24th, 2011 12:53 pm

    This kind of thing never happens in Issaquah. KC Sheriff’s helicopter & others, several city PDs. A neighbor told me a guy was seen walking around downtown Iss w/a rifle, now a standoff. Stay indoors everybody til this is over.

  4. Jack on September 24th, 2011 1:21 pm

    I’m a student and I got txts from my friends at the hs saying it was a shooting and the school is in lockdown. I heard that one guy is hurt

  5. Brent on September 24th, 2011 1:27 pm

    Jack…gang activity?

  6. Mark on September 24th, 2011 2:15 pm

    Just talked to the Rangemaster at the Issaquah Sportsmens Club. The police have killed the shooter. The gun range is not involved in this incident in any way!!

  7. Delaney Foreman on September 24th, 2011 2:16 pm

    I was going to an ASB event at the high school when everything unfolded. I was standing in the bus parking route when the gunshots went off. People were screaming from the courtyard near the fields and the police were shooting in the lower lot. I started running to the street and yelling to people to turn around and not come into the parking lot. I ran back to my car and drove to a friends house. Issaquah is a great school and I am praying for everyone’s safety.

  8. thomas on September 24th, 2011 2:20 pm

    Can we get an up date of the facts and not speculation and guessing? why hasn’t this been on the TV news ie “it’s a school shooting in Issaquah”

  9. Oliolioli11 on September 24th, 2011 3:08 pm

    I was at the game, we were packed under the bleachers. So so so scary! Saw the gunman. Incredible scary. We stayed there for about 2 and 1/2 hours, taking cover. Never thought I would be texting my lived ones just I’m case. Scary.

  10. thomas on September 24th, 2011 3:19 pm

    To the Issaquah police , King County deputies and to anyother responders to the shooting. I thank you for a job well done. God Bless you all!

  11. Richard P. Beaudry on September 24th, 2011 3:25 pm

    My wife and I were heading into Issaquah when we noticed a slim balding man walking south on the east side of Front Street brandishing TWO (2) – not one – rifles – it was shocking to see in Issaquah. My wife, Dianne, saw the man cock one of the rifles while holding it down to his side. He had two similar rifles that he was swinging up and down and around – while in schock, I thought “this is not legal gun carrying – this guy is in military colors!”. He looked over AT us and we froze. After he passed by us he went into a nearby driveway and dissapeared. Then we noticed an abandonned car, a silver compact with windows down but no emergency flashers on and cars and motor cyclists behind us (about 8 bikes) which started going around us. There was one car ahead of us which was right behind the abandonned car! We scrpt around both and drove north on Front Street. You know, we moved to this quiet suburban community to enjoy security in our retirement years – apparently, there is no such world! Richard Beaudry.

  12. Oliolioli11 on September 24th, 2011 3:36 pm

    I was at the game, we were packed under the bleachers. So so so scary! Saw the gunman. Incredible scary. We stayed there for about 2 and 1/2 hours, taking cover. Never thought I would be texting my loved ones just in case. Scary.

  13. Kristi Nangle on September 24th, 2011 3:57 pm

    Just back from this ordeal. I was at the HS under the bleachers! Kids and parents scared but we got through it!! Swat teams and officers did an amazing job and tried to make the kids feel secure and safe! Thx to law enforcement for doing their jobs especially Officer K Williams who directed us all!!

  14. Al on September 24th, 2011 4:23 pm

    Thanks Issaquah and king county police for all you do, my hats off to you!!!

  15. Papa Maury Clark on September 24th, 2011 4:25 pm

    I have been in dangerous situations, but never anything like this except during the war in South Sudan. Congratulations to all of our officers for the amazing job they did in the line of fire by unknown numbers of shooters. They protected us without a second thought.

    Maury Clark

  16. Smitty on September 24th, 2011 5:34 pm

    Suicide by cop possibly?

  17. Gina on September 24th, 2011 6:02 pm

    Excellent team coverage by The Issaquah Press staff!

  18. Lily Staffen on September 24th, 2011 6:46 pm

    I was sitting by my windowthis afternoon looking out to see a cop helicopter hovering above my apartment complex and making its way towards Issy High. Just thinking that that man was walking by my apt complex and to my high school is freaky.

  19. Vickie on September 24th, 2011 7:12 pm

    Thanks for the great coverage Warren! I can’t believe this happened in our town. This could have been a mass murder…

  20. Mark Fare on September 24th, 2011 10:54 pm

    Watch this video of the shooting posted on YouTube by a employee of the Issaquah Sportman’s Club.

    Listen to the volume of fire by law enforcement. I would venture to say that citizens of Issaquah had more to fear from Law Enforcement than from the perpetrator. The perp was shooting, yes; but not really aiming and did not hit anyone. This was profligate shooting by the “Keystone Cops” of Issaquah. Obviously they need some marksmanship training if it took that much gunfire to kill one individual. It is truly a miracle that no bystanders or homes where hit, (that we know of), from all this erstwhile “friendly” fire.

  21. Jack on September 24th, 2011 11:31 pm

    Thanks ipd

  22. Mark on September 25th, 2011 7:03 am

    Looks like a suicide by cop, no one was killed and it took the police an hour to get him, if he had wanted to kill people an hour is a long time…..

  23. Dev on September 25th, 2011 8:50 am

    Go Issaquah PD and King County Sheriffs! I applaude your skill and bravery. I’m so glad nobody else was hurt. I live in issaquah but was in Renton working when this happened.

  24. Mark on September 25th, 2011 9:33 am

    Yes, the perpetrator was shooting, but not really aiming at anyone and didn’t harm anyone. I would venture to say that by listening to the volume of fire by Law Enforcement the citizens of Issaquah had alot more to fear from the shooting done by the police than by the perpetrator. The amount of gunfire required to kill one suspect shows the need for some serious marksmanship training and a disregard for public safety on the part of a local yokel Law Enforcement agency.
    Watch this video:

  25. R. Fahey on September 25th, 2011 9:56 am

    Issaquah Press,
    As always, thanks for the immediate coverage.
    Our WA law enforcement agencies did a very fine job coordinating throughout the entire day.
    Local radio media assisted us too, especially those of us living in the immediate area as it was all lock-down until after sunset.
    I don’t wish to sound self-serving but all fellow citizens here reacted sensibly and without hysteria. As I had to park and walk back through the area cordoned off for blocks I had four people stop and ask if they could offer me a ride, including one trooper at the end of the day!
    Thanks Issaquah…you’re great!

  26. Karla Watts on September 25th, 2011 10:34 am

    We were there too…my son was on the field when the boys were directed to run under the visitor’s bleachers….the parents & spectators quickly followed as we were directed to RUN across the field and get under the bleachers….having never experienced anything like this in my life, I have to say that even though it was incredibly frightening, as I sat huddled with my son and the rest of the players and families, I did feel protected from the police….the swat team was fantastic and all the law enforcement people did an excellent job of maintaining calm among all of us, and keeping us as informed as possible….you never expect something like this to happen to our little community….we all walk around here feeling safe and secure….it’s so sad that this can happen even here…..but my hats off to the officers and teams that were handling this….we are all so grateful that there were no injuries or worse in a stadium with so many young children….I’m sure many will be tramautized over it for awhile, but it could have been so much worse!!! We may never know what set this man off…I have seen many comments around the web saying that it is just “sematics” that no one was hurt….that a man was killed….and while I am sad that a man lost his life yesterday, from the viewpoint of a mother huddled beside her 13 year old son, totally unsure of what was going to happen next, and worried about being picked off under the bleaches like sitting ducks if the gunman had made it to us, I somewhat lose my pity….he took matters into his own hands and made his own decision to do what he did….those innocent kids just out for a day of football made no such choices, and thank God the decision for life wasn’t made for them by a deranged man wielding a gun…..

  27. Mark on September 25th, 2011 12:10 pm

    Yes, the perpetrator was shooting, but not really aiming at anyone and didn’t harm anyone. I would venture to say that by listening to the volume of fire by Law Enforcement the citizens of Issaquah had alot more to fear from the shooting done by the police than by the perpetrator. The amount of gunfire required to kill one suspect shows the need for some serious marksmanship training and a disregard for public safety on the part of the local Law Enforcement agency.

  28. Max on September 25th, 2011 5:39 pm

    In response to the posting by “Mark”, you’re completely off your rocker. Your complaints center around the fact that the deadly shooter didn’t actually make contact with any of the citizens and that the police weren’t marksmen.

    Take your meds, please, and then think about what you posted here multi times.

  29. Sue on September 25th, 2011 5:41 pm

    Hey, moderator, are you planning on letting Mark repeat himself 50 times?

  30. Mark on September 25th, 2011 7:52 pm

    Sorry I only posted multiple times because they moderated the comments for almost 12 hrs before they posted them. Free speech? Maybe, if your speech is of the “approved” type.

  31. Mark on September 25th, 2011 7:58 pm

    @Max, I am sorry if you are too much of a dullard to have understood the nature of my comments. My observation was that the police response was so over the top to the threat that the response endangered innocent bystanders. All those bullets that the police fired that didn’t strike the perpetrator had to end up somewhere.. Richoceting around people and making holes in walls. With that many rounds fired its truly a miracle that LE bullets didn’t injure someone else.

  32. Administrator on September 26th, 2011 11:00 am

    From the editor: We always appreciate comments on our stories. On Saturday, we were working on the story more than on approving comments, Mark. Hope you understand.

  33. scooter on September 26th, 2011 2:42 pm

    Not sure what mark is referring to. The bullets/sounds we were hearing were the perps bullets until the police got to him. Then the police opened fire on him in a hail of gunfire to ensure a kill. The police were not randomly shooting and missing/etc. When they got to him, he died VERY quickly in a hail of gunfire from the guns of multiple Issy police officers, from what I understand.

  34. freddddd on September 26th, 2011 9:30 pm

    When are they going to announce an ID on this dude???

  35. KG on September 27th, 2011 12:35 pm

    Issaquah Press – you’re doing a great job of covering this story – just a few comments and a request. Am a mother who was under the bleachers with her two young children for almost 3 hours that day. I am not sure any of the coverage I’ve seen to date has clarified the timeline – that this guy was out there for about an hour and a half shooting before he was shot. Also, is anyone clear on his trajectory? Would like some clarity on which direction his car was facing where it was abandoned vs the path he struck out on to get over to the school. Is there anyway you could clarify that? I think we are trying to figure out if he had a path he was on and abandoned his car, or if it was as haphazard and random as it seems to appear. To my knowledge, the only thing up there on 2nd are the schools and the shooting range, then woods. He didn’t seem to be in a hurry to get to the woods and instead lingered around the schools. It only takes about 15 minutes to walk from his car to Clark. What was he doing all that time besides shooting randomly?

    We heard shots from about 11:15 to when the helicopter showed up and helped pinpoint him, I think about 12:45 – then the rash of fire from the police. The video that was captured with audio from the shooting was at about 11:45. We heard it continuously from the bleachers. Also don’t understand exactly how long it took for the police to spot him, but I do not believe that they spotted him then waited around gingerly to see what he’d do next before confronting him. From my understading it was a very short time frame between when they spotted & confronted him and when he was dead. The police had a wide perimeter because they were trying to narrow down where he was and weed through all the conflicting reports and verify if there was one or two guys. The cop with us came and went every 15 to 20 minutes or so – but no one was right with us protecting us because it looks like they were working to find him from the time they hearded us under the bleachers to when the helicopter showed up and the last shots were fired that killed him.


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