By Nigel Duara
WALDPORT, Ore. — Residents of a small Oregon coastal town waited anxiously Tuesday as police combed a forested peninsula for a man suspected of shooting and critically injuring an officer, leading a gunfire-filled chase and then disappearing into the woods.
Searchers are focused on a peninsula that juts into Alsea Bay and stretches about a mile at its widest point. They're looking for a man believed to be Anthony Durham, 43, of Portland, who is the registered owner of a 1984 Dodge truck stopped for speeding Sunday night by Lincoln City police Officer Steven Dodds.
State police said Durham is considered armed and dangerous and may be accompanied by his 40-pound, black and white dog named Huckleberry.
"He's out there hiding somewhere," Waldport city manager Nancy Leonard said of the suspect. "There's a lot of forested area, it's very easy to lose yourself."
Police have so far refused to release any additional details about the search, but residents on the peninsula said Tuesday they spent a restless night waiting to hear news of the man's capture.
"He's going to get more desperate," said Sean Nutting, who lives in the area. "He already tried to kill a cop, there (isn't) much he's scared of at this point."
State court records showed only minor offenses in Durham's past. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor prostitution charge in Portland in 1999 and had citations for speeding in 2000 and not wearing a helmet on a motorcycle in 1993.
A co-worker of Durham's told the Oregonian that he didn't show up for work last Friday and didn't call. Co-workers checked but failed to locate him, said Christina Cowan, a downtown manager of Willamette Print & Blueprints Co. Inc.
Dodds, who was officer of the year in 2010 in Lincoln City, was shot multiple times shortly after he stopped Durham's 1984 Dodge truck at 11 p.m. Sunday about 40 miles north of Waldport. He's in critical condition after undergoing surgery.
Other officers caught up with the gunman as he fled the scene and stopped his truck with spike strips in Newport, about 14 miles north of Waldport. Shots were fired at officers, but no one was hit, and the suspect ran into a wooded area and shot at a crab fisherman on a boat in Alsea Bay, near the scenic Waldport Bridge, Newport police Chief Mark Miranda said.
The town's two schools were closed Monday during the manhunt, and the Lincoln County School District planned to have classes Tuesday but would be locked down during school hours. The district said on its website that school buses would not run north of the bridge off Waldport's peninsula, and told parents who choose not to send their children to school that it would "respect your decision either way."
On the southern end of the peninsula are houses, mostly rentals or second homes. Nutting said more than 75 percent of them are vacant now, during the Oregon coast's gray and gusty winter. To the north are dense woods and 5 miles to the east is the Siuslaw National Forest.
Police have told residents they're entering the peninsula at their own risk, Nutting said.
Karen Schevenius, who works at a convenience store on the edge of the search area, said she's already had several worried calls from friends who urged her not to go to work on Tuesday morning.
"I told them, with all the police crawling around here, this is the safest place in the world," Schevenius said.
She did take one precaution: Schevenius, the local newspaper distributor, called her delivery driver and told him not to make his rounds until after daylight.
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"You never know," Schevenius said, "who's out there in the dark."