Pierce County, WA– Pierce County Sheriff’s Deputies from their Foothills Detachment responded to a 9-1-1 call from a man around 3:27 a.m. on March 12th, 2018. The male caller advised dispatchers that a female victim had been shot and transported by a male suspect to his residence on Pioneer Way East in the Orting, WA area.
Arriving Deputies contacted a woman at the residence who was in apparent shock and was suffering from a gunshot wound to her foot. The Woman told Deputies that she and another male victim had been shot by a male acquaintance armed with a rifle during a confrontation in a treehouse on the other side of the Carbon River. The victim provided a name and physical description of the suspect and was transported to a nearby hospital for treatment.
The Deputy then contacted the initial 9-1-1 caller, who reported that around 3:00 a.m. that morning he woke to the sound of the suspect banging on his door and asking for help to retrieve the injured woman from the other side of the river. The witness and suspect reportedly crossed the river in inflatable boats, to where the female victim was located on the other shore. The woman had reportedly been shot at a treehouse in a wooded area approximately 3/4 of a mile up a trail from the river bank, then was transported by the suspect to the river in a wheelbarrow.
The witness said that he loaded the female victim into one of the inflatable boats, ferried her back across the river, carried her into his house and called 9-1-1. The suspect was last seen crossing back over the river toward the wooded area where the treehouse was located.
Pierce County Deputies and Search and Rescue Teams were familiar with the treehouse described by the victim as the location where the shooting occurred, due to frequent transient activity and previous SAR callouts for missing or stranded people who attempted to cross the river to access the treehouse.
A large number of Deputies, Detectives, Forensics and the Pierce County S.W.A.T and Swift Water Rescue Team responded to the area. The active crime scene could only be accessed by boat and all the responding SWAT and Police department members had to be rafted across the river by the Swift water team before hiking into the remote crime scene.
At daybreak, SWAT team members were the first to cross the river with the assistance of the Swift Water teams. Some SWAT members hiked in toward the treehouse as others checked the riverbank for the possible armed suspect.
At 7:00 a.m., the SWAT members located a wheelbarrow with a pistol inside of it near the riverbank. The team continued through the woods and at 7:30 a.m. they located the treehouse, which had been set on fire. In the burned treehouse they located a man’s body that had also been set on fire. They also found a rifle in the burned treehouse.
Around 7:56 a.m. a Search and Rescue Deputy spotted a man in hip waders walking with a dog heading south along the river’s edge. A team of SWAT members and Swift Water members jumped into a boat and floated downriver, where the observed the same man in the brush and he was trying to climb up a steep hillside. SWAT members and a Pierce County Sheriff’s Office K-9 Unit followed the male suspect’s path and found him hiding behind a tree. The suspect was cooperative and he was taken into custody without incident. The suspect and his pit-bull dog were transported back across the river.
The 42-year old suspect was briefly interviewed by detectives and then booked into the Pierce County Jail for Murder in the 1st Degree, Assault in the 1st Degree, and Arson. His dog was taken to a family members home.
Detectives remained on scene for most of the day and the initial investigation led detectives to believe the shooting may have occurred during a dispute between the suspect and the male victim over missing/stolen property.
The Investigation remains open and the identify of the male victim has not been released.