2 Bremerton police officers recovering after wanted man opens fire following traffic stop
BREMERTON, Wash. — As the chaos of the Sunday morning traffic stop unfolded, the severity of the officer-involved shooting came to light.
“They were yelling ‘freeze’ and then they said ‘put your gun down,’” described Latoya Turner, who woke up to the sound of gunfire.
“Then pop, pop, pop and I’m thinking its kids lighting firecrackers you know,” said Jazmen Brown. “Cause New Years is coming up.”
Brown lives across the street from Lebo Park and was outside smoking with her husband early Sunday when the situation escalated.
Two Bremerton police officers are recovering after a man opened fire on them Sunday morning. Both officers were transported to Harrison Hospital.
"This was a relatively routine and common call that went to a firefight," said Bremerton Police Chief Steve Strachan.
One of the officers was seriously injured, but expected to survive. That officer is a 42-year police veteran, who's spent the past 25 years patrolling the Bremerton community.
Another officer was also shot and has already been released from the hospital. That officer has been in law enforcement for the past 5 years.
The 53-year-old gunman died at the scene after officers returned fire. The shooter was known to police for numerous protection order violations.
"He’s had a lot of contact with the courts and law enforcement, and last night when the officers saw that he was here, there was probable cause to arrest him for a previous protection order violation," said Chief Strachan.
The officer who noticed the wanted man waited for backup to arrive before both officers approached the vehicle.
Instead, police say the preliminary investigation shows the suspect began shooting at the officers when they walked up.
"He got out with two--we’ve now realized two handguns--one in each hand, and began firing at the officers as soon as he was contacted by them," said Chief Strachan. "They sought cover behind their squad cars--two different squad cars. The squad cars have bullet holes in them. We don’t know how many rounds were fired by the suspect."
The bullets striking one officer with at least two rounds in the abdomen and the other officer was struck in the waist.
"I went to see the officers when I got the call about a quarter to two. They were in two different rooms in the emergency room, and when I spoke to them – the first thing was how the other one was doing," said Chief Strachan about the police officer mentality. "As the police chief that’s something that means a lot to me."
Both officers expected to survive.
"This was a very, very dangerous situation," said Chief Strachan. "Thankfully our two officers came out of it and will survive, but this is what officers are dealing with."
The veteran officer is still recovering with family in the hospital. According to the Chief, he's expected to be released in the next three or four days.
"He worked nights. I don’t see him very often as the chief and when I do see him, he always talks about his grandkids," said Chief Strachan. "That’s the first thing he talks about."
The whole incident unnerving for neighbors who live just across the street from the park where the shooting happened.
"It woke the kids up. They were super scared and I just let my kids go across the street to the park and play," said Turner. "When I came over and talked to the officers to hear what had happened, we hear two cops got shot. It’s the holidays."
Thankfully the officers' families have a lot to be grateful for this Christmas.
"I thought about this officer's grandkids—it’s the holiday season," Chief Strachan added, "As we work through this difficult situation, I hope that people hug their families a little tighter today."
Chief Strachan expressed gratitude for the incredible outpouring of support from the community and from local law enforcement. Chiefs from both the Renton and Kent Police Department both offered support and immediately offered to send their own crews for assistance if needed.
The medical examiner's office is expected to release the suspects name following an autopsy.
The Bremerton Police Department says names of the officers involved will be released within the next few days.