FEDERAL WAY, Wash. – What began as a domestic violence homicide claimed three more lives before officers fatally shot the gunman, the police chief of this south Seattle suburb says.
The 27-year-old gunman fatally shot his live-in girlfriend at an apartment then killed three men, including a neighbor who told others to call 911 and retreated inside his unit before the gunman blasted open the door with a shotgun and opened fire.
Responding officers shot and killed the gunman in a parking lot Sunday night.
"We believe this is a domestic-violence homicide," Federal Way Police Chief Brian Wilson told a news conference Monday.
Investigators believe the shooter may also have been trying to kill witnesses, Wilson said.
A King County medical examiner's spokeswoman said Monday that the identities of the dead were not expected to be released until Tuesday afternoon.
Police encountered a chaotic situation in Federal Way when they responded to reports of gunshots.
The suspect confronted arriving officers with a shotgun in a stairwell then fled to the parking lot after officers fired at him, Wilson said.
He was killed on the ground while reaching for a handgun, Wilson said.
"This is one of the most dangerous ... calls for law enforcement to respond to," Wilson said of the active shooter situation.
Wilson said the victims included the suspect's 25-year-old girlfriend, and three men, including the 62-year-old neighbor. The other men were 24 and 46.
Police believe the gunman shot his girlfriend in their apartment, then killed the two younger men after he left the unit.
Wilson said the 62-year-old heard the commotion from another apartment, went outside to investigate and urged others to call authorities. The man returned to his residence before he was shot and killed, the chief said.
Police said the gunman used the shotgun to fire on the man's door to gain entry. It did not appear that the older man knew the shooter, police said.
"When officers arrived there were still shots being fired," said police spokeswoman Cathy Schrock.
Eight officers fired their weapons, Schrock said. All have been placed on administrative leave, which is standard policy in such situations, as the investigation continues.
Wilson said the suspect, who had a valid concealed weapons permit, had no criminal history. However, he had been involved in two prior domestic violence calls in Federal Way and Seattle, the chief said.
Both incidents were verbal in nature and no arrests were made, Wilson said.
Federal Way is about 20 miles south of Seattle.