Man shot dead by off-duty Fife cop was 21-year-old neighbor

crime-scene-tape-police-lightsORTING — A man who an off-duty Fife cop shot dead outside of the officer’s house Tuesday night was one of his neighbors in the Buttes community outside Orting.

The dead man was identified as Ben Ellett, 21, who lived in a house about 100 yards away from the 35-year-old Fife police officer, the News Tribune reported Wednesday.

The officer — identified by the Fife Police Department Wednesday as Jake Stringfellow, an 11-year veteran — was placed on paid administrative leave after the shooting, which is standard procedure.

Ellett was known by his neighbors as being mentally unstable and that he sometimes fired a gun in his backyard, the newspaper said.

In a statement, the Fife Police Department said that just after 10 p.m. Tuesday, “an armed suspect confronted the officer at the officer’s home … the suspect fired shots at the officer’s residence, with the officer shooting and killing the suspect.”

Pierce County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Ed Troyer said the Fife officer shot Ellett after Ellett fired a rifle at him outside the officer’s house Tuesday night.

Ellett was causing a disturbance in the area and the officer came out of his house and onto his porch, and Ellett allegedly fired a rifle at the officer, Troyer said.

The officer returned fire, killing Ellett, Troyer said.

The News Tribune quoted a neighbor, Jason Davis, who lives in between the two houses, as saying he was outside and saw Ellett in his car, slowly idling downhill toward the policeman’s house. He pulled into the policeman’s driveway, Davis said, got out and went to the door.

“He either knocked or rang the bell and then turned around and got back in his car,” Davis told the News Tribune. “He didn’t leave enough time for somebody to answer the door,” Davis said. “Then he backed up. That’s when I heard the four to six shots.”

Davis went inside and told his wife to call 911. Davis said all of the shots came from a single weapon—a handgun and not a rifle. “I’m a hunter,” he said, “and I know the difference.”

Troyer said shell casings were found in the driveway.

Fife Police Chief Brad Blackburn said, “The number one priority is the well-being and safety of my officers and their families.  While I do not have all the information at this time, this preliminarily appears to be an unfortunate situation where this subject chose to confront the officer at his home resulting in his death.”

The Pierce County Sheriff’s Department is investigating the fatal shooting.

At the conclusion of the investigation, it will ultimately be reviewed by the Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office, who will conduct a comprehensive review of the facts of the shooting and make a determination, Blackburn said.

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