HOQUIAM — A 20-hour standoff between police in Hoquiam and a man who wounded an officer trying to arrest him ended Thursday when the suspect died in a gunbattle with a SWAT team as his house went up in flames.
The armed man had a gas mask and a ballistic helmet, indicating he had prepared for a confrontation, Hoquiam police Sgt. Brian Dayton said.
“We have no idea what made the guy take it to such an extreme level,” Dayton said.
The 49-year-old man and his 53-year-old wife, whose names were not released, were wanted on arrest warrants out of Sacramento, Calif., for fraud, Dayton said.
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The wife owned the home and the couple had lived in Hoquiam since 2004. The man wasn’t suspected of any crimes locally, Dayton said.
Officers went to the home Tuesday and arrested the woman. She remains in the Grays Harbor County Jail.
The man gave a false identification, but officers figured it out and returned Wednesday morning to arrest him.
“He engaged in a firefight with the officers on the scene, striking one of our officers,” Dayton said.
Sgt. Jeff Salstrom was hit in the hip, but the bullet was slowed by his duty belt, Dayton said. Salstrom was treated at a hospital for a minor wound and released.
The standoff began after Salstrom and another officer returned fire and the suspect retreated into the two-story house, where he holed up on the top floor.
The man yelled back and forth with officers who remained on the first floor, and he told them he was wounded, Dayton said.
Communications broke off in the evening after the man damaged a police robot sent into the home, and the officers went outside. “The situation became unsafe,” Dayton said.
The man was seen overnight in a gas mask and helmet. Throughout the night, police fired tear gas into the house and used some loud distraction devices.
Around 6 a.m., flames were reported at the back of the house and the man came out the front.
“He was confronted by the tactical team,” Dayton said. “He failed to obey commands — ‘Show me your hands, put the gun down.’ Some more gunfire was exchanged, and the suspect went down.”
The man died at the scene.
Firefighters entered the house as soon as it was safe, but flames burned through the roof. It’s unknown how the fire started.