A husband and wife are believed to have died Monday night in what started as a domestic violence situation north of Hoquiam. It ended with a standoff and the husband shooting at officers and deputies just after setting off explosions that caused the couple’s home to burn, apparently with them inside.
The 56-year-old husband negotiated with members of the law enforcement Critical Response Unit for three hours, according to an account from Grays Harbor Undersheriff Brad Johansson. After the first two of several explosions, the man began firing out the front of the home. Seven officers returned fire. None were injured.
Shortly after the gunfire ended, the home was quickly engulfed in flames, Johansson said, but firefighters weren’t able to get close due to the threat of explosives. Numerous loud explosions came from the home on Chenois Valley Road.
Neither the husband or wife were seen leaving the house and investigators believe they were still in the house when it was on fire.
The tragedy began unfolding about 9:18 p.m. when Grays Harbor deputies were called to what was initially described as a domestic violence shooting. The caller was a 47-year-old woman who said her 18-year-old son had been shot in the hand and her 56-year-old husband had been shot in the chest.
The son and another person, who had been in the home but is not part of the family, had been able to leave and go for help. They also called 911.
The woman told a dispatcher that her husband had been threatening her. The witness who was at the home said the husband took a gun away from his wife and an argument started.
During the argument between the husband and wife, the son attempted to take the gun away from his father, according to Johansson’s account. Both men fell to the ground and the gun was discharged, striking the son’s finger and leg. The husband was struck in the chest. The wife also reported that her husband had been armed with a knife and may have stabbed her son.
On Wednesday, Johansson said the son was in satisfactory condition.
As the son and other witness were leaving, the son saw his father aim a rifle and heard a gunshot. The wife’s call to 911 went silent, according to Johansson’s report. A neighbor also called 911 to report hearing shots.
A Hoquiam police officer made the first contact with the son and called an aid car.
The Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s Office, Hoquiam Police and the Washington State Patrol all responded to the scene.
When deputies made contact with the husband he refused to leave the home and surrender. Johansson said the man warned that if law enforcement tried to enter the house he would shoot them. It was then that the Sheriff’s Office requested the Aberdeen Regional Crisis Response Unit (CRU), which has members from the Sheriff’s Office and the Aberdeen, Hoquiam, Montesano and Cosmopolis police departments.
The CRU negotiators made contact with the man and tried to get him to surrender. He refused and would not tell negotiators about the status of his wife.
Investigators learned that the man had numerous weapons, black powder and explosives, Johansson said. After more than three hours of negotiating, a large explosion came from the front of the house, followed by another large explosion.
When the man began firing from the front of the house, seven members of the CRU returned fire. Two Grays Harbor deputies, three Aberdeen officers and two Hoquiam officers fired their weapons at the suspect. As is standard, all seven have been placed on administrative leave during an investigation. None of those departments will be investigating. That will be done by the Region 3 Critical Incident Investigation Team (CIIT), which consists of detectives from the sheriff’s offices of Mason, Lewis, Thurston and Pacific counties, as well as the State Patrol. Grays Harbor is also part of the team, but will not take part in this investigation because its deputies were involved.
The Mason County Sheriff’s Office is leading the investigation.