Fugitive Ore. cop shooter is avid outdoorsman
Cops believe he's holed up in a vacation home in a secluded neighborhood less than a block from the Pacific Ocean
By Nigel Duara and Jeff Barnard
WALDPORT, Ore. — A team hunting a man accused of shooting an Oregon police officer believe he's holed up in a vacation home in a secluded neighborhood less than a block from the Pacific Ocean.
It's the latest theory by local and state police on the whereabouts of David Anthony Durham, a 43-year-old former landscaper who family members say slipped into a deluded state and at one point misinterpreted a movie about space aliens for a documentary.
Durham is suspected of critically wounding Lincoln City police officer Steven Dodds on Sunday night. Later, police said he fired on a crab fisherman from a peninsula in north Waldport, and the search team has focused on vacant and occupied homes in a neighborhood close by. Dodds remained in critical condition late Wednesday night.
The places left unsearched are mostly locked properties, the rentals and second homes of people who return to coastal Oregon when the weather turns warm. They're also the places that the search team can't go, unless they see signs of life or signs of a break-in.
Durham was last clearly seen 30 minutes before the shooting in security footage from a Lincoln City convenience store, which was released Wednesday. The footage shows him decked head to toe in green camouflage and a dark beret.
With the manhunt moving past the fifth day, searchers are focusing on a 3-square-mile strip of land that pokes into the Pacific Ocean. It has dedicated 25 members of the Oregon State Police SWAT team to around the clock patrols of the area and checks on the houses on the peninsula.
Newport Police Chief Mark Miranda said he didn't escape by the Pacific Ocean or the Alsea River. "He wouldn't last more than five minutes in this water," Miranda said.
Miranda said the search won't end until Durham is caught or gives up.
"He's probably waiting for us to leave, but we're not leaving," Miranda said.
If he's in the woods, Durham's family said he's doesn't have the training to last long.
"He had the outdoorsman skills like anybody who spends time outdoors should have," his brother Michael Durham said Wednesday.
Michael Durham says his brother lost touch with reality several months ago after taking pain medication for an injured shoulder. David Durham seemed especially struck by a recently released movie about aliens invading a remote Alaskan town, making its resident disappear.
"David, my brother, had thought it was a documentary," Michael said. "It made us do a double-take."
Police issued a warrant on Tuesday for Durham, 43, on charges including attempted aggravated murder.
Durham's acquaintances knew him as a friendly neighbor on rural Sauvie Island in Portland and avid landscaper who was also a volunteer firefighter. His landlady, Kristi Fazio, told The Associated Press that Durham was always wearing camouflage fatigues when he showed up at her door to pay the rent.
But six months ago, he was moved to "inactive service" within the Sauvie Island Fire District for unspecified emotional problems. He started slipping deeper into a depression after a breakup, friends said, and entertained paranoid fantasies about being pursued by police.
One of his co-workers, Christina Cowan, told the Oregonian that he didn't show up for work last Friday.
On Sunday night, Dodds pulled over a 1984 Dodge truck driven by a man police believe to be Durham on a coastal highway. A dashboard camera video hasn't been released, but at some point during the encounter, Dodds, 45, was shot more than once.
Dodds managed to call in the shooting to dispatchers despite his wounds.
Durham sped south on Highway 101, with the Pacific Ocean less than 200 yards to his right and the thick beginnings of the Siuslaw National Forest on his left.
Though three cars were in pursuit of Durham, he managed to climb out of the truck and, dressed in full green camouflage, escape into the woods. His dog Huckleberry followed him but apparently became separated from him and was found Wednesday.
Inside the truck, police found weapons. They've refused to say how many or what kind.