02/28/2004

Sheriff died in shootout, investigators say

Officer Down: Al Eastman - [Clatskanie, Oregon]

Sheriff died in shootout, investigators say

02/27/2004

Associated Press

Former Oregon sheriff Al Eastman died in a shootout with a fugitive who had taken refuge in an abandoned house across the street from his home, police said.

Eastman and the suspect, 23-year-old Jason B. Woodruff, on the run for allegedly passing bad checks, were both found dead in the abandoned farm house on Wednesday, after Eastman's wife reported hearing shots fired.

Initially, police said they were unsure whether Eastman was killed in a murder-suicide or in a shootout with Woodruff. Investigators said Thursday they are sure it was a shootout, and can partly reconstruct what happened.

Eastman saw an open door at the vacant farmhouse across the street, grabbed his handgun and went to see what was wrong, said Capt. Jerry Gregg of the Oregon State Police.

Inside the house, Eastman, 69, encountered Woodruff at the foot of the stairs. Woodruff also was carrying a handgun. They both fired, hitting each other.

"The million-dollar question was whether it was a murder-suicide or a shootout," Gregg said. "They shot one another. What a horrible situation."

Two handguns were found at the scene and an autopsy concluded both men died in a close-range shootout. Their bodies were found a few feet apart.

"They very possibly startled one another," Gregg said. "Of course, we'll never know that for sure."

The encounter happened about 11:30 a.m., after police had alerted residents of this Columbia River Gorge town that an armed suspect had fled on foot into the neighborhood.

In addition to the normal police response, the state police scrambled its Special Weapons and Tactics team. Neighbors were evacuated, and the house was surrounded for several hours before the bodies were discovered.

Eastman spent four years as the Clatsop County sheriff, retiring in 1986 after a 26-year career with the department.

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Information from: The Oregonian
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