Officer lucky to be alive as investigation into standoff begins
Mar 29, 2013 (The Daily World - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Hoquiam Patrol Sgt. Jeff Salstrom is lucky to be alive.
He and Officer Phil High had returned to a home Wednesday on the 2800 block of Aberdeen Avenue with Detective Sgt. Shane Krohn and Detective David Blundred to serve a warrant on fraud charges from Sacramento County in California.
On Tuesday, officers had gone to the home and arrested 53-year-old Nina Marlowe, registered as the home's owner, on a warrant. Her husband, Rick Marlowe, also wanted in the same case, gave officers a false name and was not picked up. Once police figured out the name was false, they returned to arrest him.
Marlowe had other ideas. He allegedly fired on the officers, hitting Salstrom at least twice -- once in the hip, and a second shot hit the radio microphone on Salstrom's shoulder. A third shot may have hit him in the wrist, though it is yet unclear if that was a separate round or an injury associated with one of the other two. The officers returned fire and retreated from the home, a retreat that began a 20-hour standoff that ended with the suspect gunned down by police and the home engulfed in flames.
Salstrom's injuries were relatively minor, and Hoquiam Police Chief Jeff Myers says the 15-year law enforcement veteran and former K-9 officer is nothing short of lucky.
"We're just very thankful that this turned out with the officer OK," Myers said Thursday.
Salstrom, who recently lost his police dog, Enno, to cancer, has been with the Hoquiam Police for 12 years. He is married and has three young sons.
Officer High, a 12-year police veteran, has been with Hoquiam for three years after stints with the Ocean Shores Police and a department in Idaho.
Both officers are on paid administrative leave until the investigation is completed, a standard practice after the discharge of a firearm.
In the aftermath of the shooting and standoff, police officials are moving to the investigation phase, handing that over to the Regional Critical Incident Investigation Team -- the same team that investigated the attack at the Grays Harbor County Courthouse last year.
Officers arrived at the home first on Tuesday, when they served warrants to both Marlowes. She was arrested. He gave a false name, and was not taken in.
When Hoquiam Police discovered he had not been truthful about his identity, they returned to the home to arrest him. After the altercation and gunfire exchange, the officers pulled back and what would be a more than 20-hour standoff with Marlowe began.
Officers from around the Harbor and beyond converged on the scene, and as the day wore on, the representation included the Grays Harbor Sheriff's Office, Aberdeen, Cosmopolis, Montesano police, enforcement officers from the Department of Natural Resources and state Fish & Wildlife, as well as the State Patrol and officers from Mason and Jefferson counties.
"We basically tapped every law enforcement agency available in the county and beyond," Myers said Thursday.
As police positioned themselves around the home, they discovered that the couple raised rabbits in the backyard. After gates were opened to allow access to the bottom floor of the home, the rabbits were seen on nearby streets throughout the standoff hopping around body-armor clad officers carrying assault rifles, offering a surreal juxtaposition to the tense waiting game playing out mere yards away.
By 2 p.m., the State Patrol Bomb Squad arrived with robots that were used to enter the home. Marlowe reportedly shot the camera off of one of the robots.
Repeated volleys of tear gas were shot into the home, but Marlowe reportedly had a gas mask and a helmet, according to officers on scene, reducing the effectiveness of the gas.
Around 4:30 p.m., Marlowe allegedly opened fire on a SWAT team "Bearcat" armored vehicle from inside the home, and, according to Garys Harbor Sheriff's Chief Criminal Deputy Steve Shumate, direct negotiation with the man was stopped.
"He just continued to elevate the aggression toward the officers," Shumate said.
Police continued throughout the night to try to get Marlowe to come out of the home, communicating with him on loudspeaker and using gas and flash-bang devices. At around 1:30 a.m., however, he reportedly covered the home's windows with mattresses.
At about 6:15 a.m., after hours of minimal activity, officers reported seeing Marlowe descend the stairs of the home with his handgun. Soon after, they reported signs of a fire in the home. At about 6:30 a.m., he allegedly came out of the home armed with his gun.
He reportedly did not comply with repeated commands, and was shot, dying at the scene.
A hot, raging blaze quickly engulfed the home, with onlookers two blocks away feeling the heat. Flames leaped about 20 feet above the structure as firefighters battled to keep it from spreading to nearby homes. Shumate said investigators were unsure at this time if the use of flash-bang devices was related to the cause of the fire. By around 8:30 a.m., the fire was under control.
As the firefighters doused hot spots at what was left of the scene of the standoff Thursday, a lengthy investigation had already begun. Immediate neighbors were still only allowed into their homes with a law enforcement escort, and were being interviewed by investigators.
The Regional Critical Incident Response Team -- which includes law enforcement from Grays Harbor, Mason, Lewis and Thurston counties -- has a complex case with multiple incidents to individually investigate, Myers said.
Though the most prominent pieces will be the shooting of Salstrom and the suspect's eventual death 20 hours later, all the incidents in between will have to be thoroughly looked at.
"He shot Salstrom, they returned fire. He shot the robot ... he shot the truck, and then the last when he came out. So we've got five or six interconnected incidents that need to be investigated," Myers explained. "You've also got multiple SWAT teams ... multiple people from different agencies ... It's going to be an extensive investigation."
On top of that, investigators will scour Marlowe's background and criminal history to try to determine what led him to react the way he did. For instance, they're still not 100 percent sure that Rick Marlowe is his real name.
"I'm sure there's going to be a lot more to this story," Myers said.
As for Salstrom, Myers was breathing a sigh of relief that his injuries weren't worse. "There is no 'routine stop' in law enforcement," Myers said Thursday. "I was relieved to go to his house and check on him rather than have to tell his wife that he had been killed."
Daily World photographer MacLeod Pappidas and writer Brionna Friedrich contributed to this report.
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