January 06, 2011
Oregon chief killed with own weapon
Officer Down: Chief of Police Ralph Painter - [Rainier, Oregon]
RAINIER, Ore. — The police chief of Rainier, Oregon, struggled with a theft suspect at a car audio shop and was killed by a gunshot Wednesday, officials said.
Chief Ralph Painter responded Wednesday morning to a disturbance at Rainier Sound Authority, according to the Columbia County Sheriff's Office.
An emotional Mayor Jerry Cole called Painter "an outstanding police officer" and a friend of 25 years. The chief had been with the city's small police department for 20 years and was a grandfather.
"He'd help anyone in need," Cole said. "He's part of our family here in Rainier."
Cole was joined at a news conference by Sheriff Jeff Dickerson, who would not identify the suspect and was tight-lipped about details.
He indicated the suspect was trying to steal a vehicle at the shop.
"The officer made contact with the suspect at the store and a struggle ensued. The officer was wounded with a gunshot and later was pronounced dead," the sheriff's office said in a statement earlier in the day. (The subject reportedly shot the chief with his own gun).
Law enforcement agencies swarmed to the scene, and shots were fired.
The unidentified suspect was wounded and taken into custody, authorities said. The suspect was hospitalized and under guard, but he had not been arrested as of early Wednesday afternoon.
Rainier is near the Washington border.
Jeff McCracken, the pastor at the nearby Rainier Assembly of God Church, told CNN affiliate KGW he heard police sirens and saw the confrontation with the suspect.
"There were officers about 10 feet outside my window with AR-15s," he said. "We heard them start yelling at this guy inside to put his weapon down. I told everyone (in the church) to get down.
"Then all of a sudden a round came through the window I had been looking through, about six inches above my head, where I had just been standing," McCracken said. "I started yelling, 'Everybody get out, get out!'"
At that point, McCracken and the others inside the church ran to the opposite side of the building, he said. Police told them to stay inside as a safety precaution, according to KGW, based in Portland.
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