PORT ORCHARD, Wash. (AP) — A possible suspect in the shooting death of a Washington State trooper during a traffic stop early Thursday shot himself hours later as a SWAT team closed in, authorities said.
Investigators had received a tip on where to find the registered owner of a pickup the trooper had stopped early Thursday before he was shot.
“As our SWAT team made their approach they heard a single gunshot coming from the house,” Kitsap County sheriff’s Sgt. Ken Dickinson said. “They found a male subject with a single gunshot wound.” The man was taken to Tacoma General Hospital; his condition was unknown.
Dickinson couldn’t confirm whether the man was the owner of the truck or the suspect in the trooper’s killing.
The trooper, Tony Radulescu, 44, was a 16-year veteran of the Washington State Patrol who served his entire career in the patrol’s Bremerton district. He had stopped the truck around 1 a.m. on Highway 16 about 20 miles west of Seattle across Puget Sound and had radioed the location and license plate number, said Trooper Russ Winger.
When Radulescu didn’t respond to status checks, a Kitsap County sheriff’s deputy went to the scene and found the trooper outside his patrol car. He was taken to St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma where he was declared dead.
Three hours later, officers found the truck abandoned on a county road near Port Orchard, about two miles from the shooting scene.
Troopers, deputies and other officers searched the area for the driver using dogs and questioning people. They urged residents to stay inside and call 911 if they saw anything suspicious.
Dogs did not pick up a track, Winger said.
Radulescu was a military veteran with a son in the area who is a soldier, Patrol Chief John Batiste said at a news conference at St. Joseph Medical Center. He was well-known and popular in the community where he often spoke in schools, Batiste said.
“It’s a terrible thing to receive a phone call that one of your people is injured in line of duty. To have that compounded with a loss, it’s a bad day,” Patrol Chief John R. Batiste.
The chief has been consoling family and members of agency.
“They’re all hurting. I’m hurting,” Batiste said.
An aid car carrying Radulescu’s body was escorted by dozens of patrol cars with lights flashing from the hospital to the Pierce County medical examiner’s office where the autopsy would be conducted.
The last Washington State Patrol trooper killed on duty was James Saunders, 31, who was shot in 1999 during a traffic stop in Pasco. Nicolas S. Vasquez pleaded guilty to aggravated murder and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
– Copyright 2012 The Associated Press