Three sheriff's detectives shot as raid on meth lab ends in gunfire
|By Duff Wilson, Ian Ith and Brian Joseph|
Seattle Times staff reporters
MAPLE VALLEY — Three King County sheriff's detectives were shot last night as they raided a suspected meth lab at a house in a heavily wooded area near Highway 18 and 208th Avenue Southeast.
The detectives' injuries were not expected to be life-threatening, but two were in critical condition late last night.
Those detectives, both from the North Kenmore precinct, were airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.
One officer, a 29-year-old man who has been with the sheriff's office since 1997, was shot in the stomach and elbow. The other, a 35-year-old who has been with the force for four years, was shot several times in the upper legs.
The third detective, a four-year veteran in his early 30s from the Maple Valley precinct, was shot in the foot and taken to Valley Medical Center in Renton.
The identities of the officers were not immediately available. All were part of a neighborhood drug-enforcement team and all were wearing protective vests and windbreakers with "Sheriff" stenciled across the back.
The confrontation started as a routine drug raid at 3:07 p.m., when 12 to 20 plainclothes narcotics officers showed up at a suspected methamphetamine lab in the 24800 block of 208th Avenue Southeast, in the unincorporated part of Maple Valley, said John Urquhart, sheriff's spokesman.
The house is also suspected of being a "chop shop," a place where stolen cars are dismantled for parts.
At least two people were arrested, said Greg Dymerski, sheriff's spokesman.
At 6:45 p.m., a 31-year-old South King County man on a motorcycle rode up the long, unpaved driveway leading to the house. The three detectives, who were stationed outside the house while other deputies searched for drugs, asked the rider what he was doing, and the man pulled a gun and started shooting.
"He starts shooting wildly," Dymerski said, "and hits the three detectives."
Deputies, including at least one of the detectives who was wounded, returned fire and killed the man, Dymerski said.
"Basically," Urquhart said, "it was all over until this cyclist arrived."
Dymerski said he did not know if the shooter had been named in the warrant or if he is connected to the alleged meth lab.
"He was acting pretty suspicious, keeping his hands in his pockets, and the next thing they know he pulled out a handgun and shot three of our detectives," Dymerski said.
Residents say the neighborhood had been under police surveillance for a long time.
Chris Christensen, 46, lives in one of the homes blocked off near the suspected meth lab. He said he knew "they have been watching this for a long time. And a lot of our friends have been stopped just because of this road, myself included."
Dymerski said neighbors had called the sheriff's office several times complaining about drugs, "methamphetamines in particular."
Sheriff Dave Reichert said his first reaction when he learned of the shooting was disbelief. He told the dispatcher, "You've got to be kidding."
Just eight days earlier, King County sheriff's Deputy Richard Herzog was shot and killed with his gun in Newcastle.
"It's like a slug to the gut," Urquhart said. "It's just really hard to take. We don't have this happen around here at all, but now four officers have been shot in two weeks."
Herzog, assigned to the six-man Newcastle Police Department, responded to a call of a naked, highly agitated man running in traffic and pounding on cars outside an apartment complex on Coal Creek Parkway Southeast.
Herzog scuffled with the man, who grabbed the deputy's gun and shot him repeatedly. The suspect, Ronald Keith Matthews Sr., has a long history of drug abuse and was released June 11 from prison, where he served time for assaulting a police officer.
"This is what we do, this is what the job is all about. Every day we face life and death situations ... (but) I think the public needs to be outraged and angered," about the attacks on police officers, Reichert said.
Families and colleagues of the three wounded detectives were at the hospitals last night, as were dozens of Seattle police officers who gathered to lend support to their King County brethren.
"We all just attended the funeral for Deputy Herzog (on Thursday), and to have three deputies wounded is pretty stunning," said Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske, who was at Harborview with his command staff. "We're all pretty shocked now. We're just trying to help out wherever we can."