Attack on deputies stuns weary region
David E. Crable, in death, is at the center of the latest attack on local law enforcement. Since Oct. 31 five officers have been killed and three wounded.
Seattle Times staff reporters
EATONVILLE, Pierce County — Threats and violence in the Crable clan had set mother against son, brother against brother and daughter against father.
Always at the center of the fractured family was the menacing 35-year-old David E. Crable, who was killed Monday night after authorities say he shot two Pierce County sheriff's deputies.
Now Crable, in death, is at the center of the latest in a series of attacks on law enforcement that have left five officers dead and three wounded in Pierce County and Seattle since Oct. 31.
"This should underline and make clear the fact that people who wear badges risk things. They risk themselves for perfect strangers," Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor said.
Over the past two years, the 6-foot, 235-pound Crable had been the subject of restraining orders sought by his brother and mother. In May, Patsy Jo Crable described her oldest son as armed, suicidal, violent and abusing drugs and alcohol. That same month, David Crable was arrested at gunpoint by Pierce County deputies outside his Spanaway home on suspicion of malicious mischief and brandishing a knife.
On Monday night, two deputies were summoned to the Tanwax Lake home of Crable's brother, Jason, who said his "drunk and belligerent" brother was an unwanted guest. The deputies offered David Crable a ride.
David Crable responded by shooting the deputies, Sgt. Nick Hausner, 43, and Deputy Kent Mundell Jr., 44, before he was killed by return gunfire.
Hausner, a 20-year veteran, was in serious condition Tuesday night but is expected to recover. Mundell, who has been with the department for a decade, was in critical condition at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.
Crable was killed, according to sheriff's officials, after he and Mundell exchanged gunfire from just feet away.
Jason Crable and David Crable's 16-year-old daughter, who had been staying at the house, were not injured. According to Pierce County Sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Ed Troyer, Jason Crable and the girl dragged the wounded Hausner into another room, barred the door and administered first aid.
A neighbor said the girl ran to a nearby house and asked the resident to call police.
Just before the shooting, Troyer said, David Crable appeared intoxicated but was cooperative and had agreed to leave the home with the deputies. But then he pulled out a handgun hidden in a shirt that was tucked under his arm and opened fire at almost point-blank range. Mundell, Troyer said, was shot several times but managed to return fire. He then was shot multiple times again before Crable collapsed, Troyer said
"He knew what he was going to do," Troyer said of Crable's actions.
Troyer, who described the shootings of the deputies as an "ambush," said Crable fired at least 10 rounds. Detectives spent Tuesday at the home, taking measurements, interviewing neighbors and trying to determine what prompted the attack.
"There's not going to be an answer that makes any sense, other than that he wanted to kill these officers," Troyer said. "It was emotion filled with alcohol and violence."
Alcohol and violence plagued David Crable's life in recent years, according to court records and interviews, which showed he had clashed with family members over issues ranging from his daughter's welfare to slashed tires.
Since 2007, David Crable's mother and brother sought protective orders against David, alleging he was threatening, violent and had displayed erratic behavior. David Crable, meanwhile, sought his own protection orders against them, accusing them of interfering with his daughter's upbringing and stealing his property.
Eventually, all were dismissed, as often as not by the family member who had sought court protection in the first place, according to court records.
In 2007, Jason Crable obtained a protective order after claiming David had threatened "to kill my dogs and damage my car" when Jason decided to move in with his girlfriend. A few weeks later, Jason asked the court to dismiss the order, saying the problem was resolved when Jason ended up moving out.
"We get along together much better now," he wrote to the judge.
David Crable responded with a petition of his own, alleging Jason had threatened him when he tried to collect a debt for his mother. He later asked the court to dismiss his case, saying he and his brother had made up. "We would like to do the normal things that brothers do in life, camping, fishing, etc.," he wrote.
Last May, their mother, Patsy Jo Crable, 71, obtained a protective order after alleging that David had thrown her out of the house they had been sharing in Spanaway. She said he was violent, drank often and used drugs, was armed and was urging his daughter toward suicide.
"Before I left home he was always threatening suicide, and told his daughter he wanted to die," she wrote.
Like before, David Crable retaliated with a petition of his own, claiming his mother was verbally abusive and had tried to slap him. The court dismissed his petition when Crable failed to appear at a hearing.
Meanwhile, Patsy Jo Crable withdrew her petition, saying it was no longer necessary because she was moving to Oregon.
Whatever the family dynamic, it is clear from the documents that David Crable had an explosive temper, was a heavy drinker and often carried a handgun.
A May run-in with his brother, Jason, at David Crable's Spanaway house resulted in his arrest by deputies at gunpoint on misdemeanor charges of malicious mischief and branding a knife. He later told a neighbor he'd used the knife to slash the tires on his brother's truck to keep him from driving drunk, according to court records.
David Crable's only other brush with the law was a drunken-driving charge in 2008. He was arrested after making a tire-spinning U-turn over a neighbor's lawn in his truck in front of a deputy who had been called to a disturbance. Crable's blood-alcohol content was 0.213 percent, nearly three times the legal limit.
He was given a diversion, which would have allowed the conviction to go on his record as reckless driving if he stayed out of trouble for two years. The May arrest revoked that deal and Crable served a day in jail, paid nearly $900 in fines and had an ignition alcohol lock installed on his car.
Court records show he attended a number of alcohol-counseling sessions and Crable had told the court he was attending 12-step meetings.
In June, Child Protective Services received a complaint, forwarded by sheriff's deputies, that Crable had abused his daughter, then 15. The allegation was deemed to be "founded," but the agency did not begin court action to remove the girl from Crable's custody.
Troyer said there was a protective order prohibiting David Crable from being near his daughter; however, the order was not found in Pierce County court files.
At least one local resident said David Crable had moved in with his brother, Jason, about three months ago.
"He immediately made his presence known because almost every night he would shoot guns," said Jim Joos, manager of a store at Rainbow RV Resort, near Jason Crable's home. Joos said he reported the gunfire to law enforcement twice.
He said David Crable — who owned a Corvette, according to court documents — would roar through the RV park at speeds well above the posted 5 mph limit.
Joos said he asked Crable to slow down, and Crable "laughed and said not to worry, he wasn't going to hurt any of the kids."
"He was a little bit wacko, a little bit nuts," Joos recalled.
Another neighbor, Sylvia Rowen, said Jason and David "got along fine when they were sober."
When alcohol was involved, she said, "They couldn't stand each other."
Rowen said that David had been living at Jason's home on and off, but that Jason's girlfriend had recently announced it was time for him to leave, which had raised tensions in the house.
Crable occasionally lived with his mother in Spanaway, in a two-story white house with a flagpole out front. Neighbor Bobby Brown, 21, moved in next door on May 28, the same day David Crable was arrested at gunpoint by sheriff's deputies.
"We pulled up to the house, and there were three cops with their guns drawn ordering this guy to the ground," Brown said. "We wondered what we got into."
When Crable returned, about a month later, he didn't talk much about the arrest, except to say that he and his brother had fought, Brown recalled. The night of his return, Crable and Brown had a few beers in Brown's garage.
"He pulled me off to the side and asked me if I'd watch his house. I said sure, and he asked me if I had a gun."
At that point, Brown said, Crable pulled a semi-automatic handgun from a holster under his shirt and handed it to him, telling him it was loaded.
"That weirded me out," Brown said.
After Crable left, Brown said, he took the weapon into his house, removed the magazine, ejected the round in the chamber and stored the gun and magazine in separate places.
When Crable came back a few weeks later, he asked for the weapon and Brown gave it back.
Crable slipped the magazine back in the gun and slipped it into his waistband, saying, "Man, you've got to have it loaded," Brown recalled.
For Pierce County law enforcement, Monday night's shootings came as officers are still dealing with the deaths of four police officers from Lakewood, who were shot to death Nov. 29 in Parkland. The gunman, Maurice Clemmons, was shot and killed by a Seattle police officer two days later.
On Oct, 31, a Seattle police officer, Timothy Brenton, was fatally shot, and his partner wounded, in Seattle's Leschi neighborhood. Christopher Monfort, of Tukwila, a man who prosecutors say had a grudge against police, has been charged in that shooting.
Seattle Times staff reporters Maureen O'Hagan, Jonathan Martin, Nick Perry, Steve Miletich, Jennifer Sullivan and news researchers Gene Balk and Miyoko Wolf contributed to this report.
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