A nattily dressed man who fired shots into the Living Hope Community Church in downtown Wenatchee, Washington, on Saturday morning and then wounded an officer was shot dead by police on the church’s “doorstep,” the church’s pastor said.
A release from the North Central Washington Investigation Unit said the suspect, whose identity has not yet been released, began shooting at the church located at the corner of Chelan Avenue and Palouse Street around 8:27 a.m.
When Wenatchee Police confronted the suspect at the scene, the suspect wounded an officer in the leg before he was killed.
When contacted by The Christian Post for further details on the shooting and the suspect on Monday, a Wenatchee police official said they were unable to comment or investigate the shooting due to laws in Washington that require an independent investigation of all officer-involved shootings.
“While our agency had the shooting officers, we can’t investigate the shooting,” the official told CP.
The case was passed to the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office. Douglas County Undersheriff Tyler Caille told CP Monday that the case is still being investigated but that investigators have identified the suspect and informed his family. However, they will not be releasing any further details on the shooting until mid-week. Callie could not say if the suspect had a history of mental illness or if the suspect had any connection to the church.
“The investigators are still working on it, trying to determine motive and what reasoning he would have to have been at the church that day. But it has not been determined at this time,” Caille said.
The undersheriff said there were witnesses because vendors were preparing for the annual Apple Blossom Festival parade at a park across the street from the church at the time. He could not confirm who fired first.
He said a few hours before the Apple Blossom Festival parade began, “there was a man that was not familiar to us … who was dressed in a suit and tie and, for whatever reason, decided he wanted to enter the church building” from the south door.
People gathered across the street from the church for the festival “started hearing shots.”
“He tried to enter using firearms and tried to come in the door. And, of course, it was parade day. So there were lots of officers around ready to respond. And so when they heard that coming in, obviously they encountered a man who was firing into a building,” Peyton continued. “Not knowing what was going on inside, who may or may not have been inside the building, they drew their weapons and told him to put his down, at which point they exchanged fire. An officer was struck, and the man was fatally wounded right on the scene.”
Peyton said the man reportedly died “very quickly.”
“There is a lot of misinformation that was throwing around. We don’t really know motives or anything like that. So I mean, there are some people who have kind of spread a lot of things that we just don’t know about,” he said.
The pastor said he was called into the church “pretty soon” after the shooting and arrived at about 9 a.m. Peyton said the church’s door and windows were damaged.
“That’s a really sad, yucky thing that happened on our doorstep,” he said. “It wasn’t what I expected to walk into.”
Peyton allowed members of the church to share their thoughts on the shooting. One elderly parishioner said he hoped that the suspect had come to the church “seeking hope” and offered prayers for his soul.
“When I first heard about this, I thought about the many times in my job [when] I was out in the remote areas of Alaska, and I would go into small towns and at night. I would seek out a church, and the doors would be open, and I could just go in and seek hope,” the parishioner said. “If nothing else, I pray that this man was seeking hope and I hope he found it, and just pray for his soul.”
A female parishioner said she was happy that no one else was killed “except for the poor man who probably had mental illness and was not in his right mind.”
“I feel bad for his family. So I mean, instead of demonizing him … [let’s] be compassionate because that’s not normal,” she said.
In the meantime, police say they are still trying to find out why the man dressed in a suit and tie turned up at Living Hope Community Church with a gun on Saturday morning.
“We are trying to figure out why the suspect went there,” Caille said. “We can’t find any correlation to the parade either.”