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Originally published February 14, 2010 at 8:04 PM | Page modified February 14, 2010 at 9:51 PM

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Search widens for Washington State trooper's assailant

Teams of law-enforcement officers along with Washington State Patrol investigators are following dozens of leads and combing a widening area on and around the Long Beach Peninsula in their hunt for the man who shot Trooper Scott Johnson early Saturday morning.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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People with information can call these numbers:

Washington: 1-800-283-7808

Out of state: 1-360-405-6650

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Teams of law-enforcement officers along with Washington State Patrol investigators are following dozens of leads and combing a widening area on and around the Long Beach Peninsula in their hunt for the man who shot Washington State Trooper Scott Johnson early Saturday.

A decorated 25-year veteran, Johnson was in good condition — and high spirits — at Oregon Health & Science University Hospital in Portland, with a bullet still lodged in his head.

Dozens of law-enforcement officers flocked to his bedside in a show of support, and the modest Johnson tried to deflect the attention, saying: "So what else is going on around here except me?"

Johnson was shot while preparing a vehicle involved in a drunken-driving traffic stop in Long Beach, Pacific County, for a tow truck. Investigators say a man emerged from the dark as Johnson was processing the car's inventory and mumbled something to the trooper before firing two shots at him.

"We had people working on it all night, following up on tips, but we're still where we started," State Patrol spokeswoman Trooper Krista Hedstrom said Sunday.

Officials describe the man as white, scruffy-looking, between 35 and 40 years old with a light-tan complexion, about 5 feet 10 inches and 185 to 200 pounds. He was wearing a dark-colored insulated shirt and possibly a knit cap.

The shooting has rocked a law-enforcement community in Washington already reeling from a spate of violence directed at them in recent months.

Nine law-enforcement officers have been shot since Halloween, and six of them have died. They include four Lakewood police officers killed Nov. 29 in the deadliest single attack on police in state history.

In a span of 24 hours, more than 1,600 people had joined a Facebook fan page created for the injured trooper. One person wrote: "I am married to a police officer, so what happened yesterday (and in Seattle and Lakewood) makes me furious. We have got to stop crazy people. ... "

The recent shootings made the news of Johnson's attack even more agonizing, his ex-wife, Candy Johnson, said. The two were married 18 years, have four grown children and remain good friends.

She described him as "well-respected and well-liked."

At his bedside, she said, "Scott got calls from people he worked with, the governor was calling; people who had been shot in the line of duty were sticking by his side.

"He kept apologizing to everybody for having to take time out of their day to come see him."

"Mom, I've been shot"

Linda Johnson, the trooper's mother, said her son called early Saturday to tell her, "Mom I've been shot."

While it helped that the call was from him, she said, "it's a call no mother ever wants to receive."

At a news conference Sunday, she thanked all those who helped her son and pleaded with anyone with information about the person who hurt him to "please call."

"I want this man caught before he hurts anyone else."

The shooting occurred after another trooper, Jesse Greene, had pulled over a woman on suspicion of drunken driving.

Johnson, who was working solo in a patrol cruiser, arrived around 12:20 a.m. so Greene could take the driver in for processing.

Tow-truck driver George Hill arrived and was preparing to tow the car when the shooter suddenly emerged from the dark. The man exchanged words with the trooper and opened fire at 12:40 a.m.

Johnson got off a shot but there was no indication at the scene that the man was wounded. Officials have interviewed the car's driver but Hedstrom said they've not been able to establish any connections between the driver and the shooter.

K-9 units and a State Patrol airplane searched early Saturday and more than 60 officers began going house to house in and around Long Beach, a coastal resort town.

The Washington State Patrol Troopers Association is offering a $25,000 reward, and Tacoma-Pierce County Crime Stoppers is offering $1,000 for information leading to an arrest.

Authorities released a sketch of the suspect. They've been following leads, including a surprising number that have come from Oregon.

Lornet Turnbull: 206-464-2420 or lturnbull@seattletimes.com

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