Police roadblocks create traffic headaches

September 27, 2011

By Warren Kagarise

Police used roadblocks to slice Issaquah in half in the moments after a gunman abandoned a car along a downtown street and trekked to Clark Elementary School for a fatal shootout.

The rapid police response — from the Issaquah Police Department, King County Sheriff’s Office, Washington State Patrol and at least a half-dozen other agencies — left motorists unable to use most of Second Avenue Southeast and a critical stretch of Front Street South for more than seven hours.

Officers closed Second Avenue Southeast from Front Street South to East Sunset Way, and, in another gridlock-inducing shutdown, Front Street South from Second Avenue Southeast to Newport Way Northwest.

MORE COVERAGE

• King County authorities identify Issaquah gunman

• Issaquah police encountered gunman in days, hours before shooting

• ‘It was like being in a war zone’ amid shootout

• Investigation, absences challenge Issaquah police

• Clark Elementary students return to school, a crime scene

Unable to use city streets, residents set off on foot through the city trails system to slip past police. Rainier Trail through downtown Issaquah served as a popular alternative to Front Street South and Second Avenue Southeast as people parked vehicles at the Issaquah Community Center and hiked home.

Police closed the roads at about noon and reopened the north-south arteries to traffic by 7:30 p.m.

Mayor Ava Frisinger even encountered a man downtown after he sloshed across Issaquah Creek to bypass the police blockade — a no-no during salmon spawning season.

Most people, however, endured traffic congestion and long detours through the city.

“If you didn’t know Issaquah, you were lost,” said Connie Van Houten, a Renton resident running errands in Issaquah amid the incident.

The short trip from home in downtown Issaquah to Our Savior Lutheran Church along Front Street South bedeviled the Rev. Larry Thomas, pastor at the church, as he attempted to reach the church to prepare for Sunday services.

“I spoke briefly with a state patrol officer at the Front Street roadblock and he said I couldn’t get through,” Thomas said. “I said, ‘I’m the pastor at one of the churches down the street here.’ He was very gracious, he said, ‘Do you have services tonight?’ I said, ‘No, just tomorrow.’ He said, ‘Well, we’ll open up in a while.’”

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