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Originally published September 27, 2011 at 3:06 PM | Page modified September 28, 2011 at 4:38 PM

Gunman killed by Issaquah police identified

The man killed by Issaquah police at an elementary school on Saturday after opening fire on officers and pedestrians was identified Tuesday as Ronald W. Ficker, 51, of Maple Valley.

Seattle Times staff reporters

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Ronald Ficker was a licensed real-estate broker and once owned his own refrigeration and air-conditioning company, but he largely lived "off the grid" and spent most of his time working on his 2 ½-acre property north of Maple Valley, according to people who knew him.

Ficker, 51, apparently lived off rental income from tenants who either shared his two-story, multifamily house, or lived in a trailer nestled near a vineyard on the property in unincorporated King County.

"It was an idyllic setting," said a former tenant, who lived in a 32-foot travel trailer with her teenage daughter on Ficker's property between December and July.

The woman was horrified to learn her former landlord — whom she described as a kind but socially awkward man who was prone to paranoid rants about the government — was fatally shot by police on Saturday after reportedly opening fire on pedestrians and officers.

Ficker exchanged gunfire with police near Clark Elementary School in Issaquah and died at the scene, according to the King County Sheriff's Office, which is investigating the shooting. He died from multiple gunshot wounds, the King County Medical Examiner's Office said Tuesday.

"He was definitely off, but not 'off' like crazy," said the former tenant, who now lives out of state and asked not to be identified. "... He just seemed like a loner. I never would have pictured him as somebody violent."

A current tenant, who moved in a short time ago, described Ficker as "kind of different but a nice guy."

The woman, who also asked not to be named, said Ficker told her that he had built the house, and had installed the wiring and plumbing himself.

"He has every tool in the world," she said.

Ficker was in the process of building a stone-edged pond that he had planned to stock with trout, she said. He had also devised an automatic watering system for his extensive garden that includes grapes, blueberries, strawberries, squash and tomatoes.

Based on conversations with other tenants, the woman said she thought Ficker had been a "skilled marksman" who had served in the military. She said the consensus among the tenants was that "something had happened to him that made him snap and decide he didn't want to live anymore. He might have been lonely."

The former tenant who lived in the travel trailer said Ficker insisted that her $500-a-month rent be paid in cash. He often complained about rising taxes on the property, she said.

Detectives still don't know why Ficker abandoned his car near downtown Issaquah on Saturday morning and then walked almost half a mile to Clark Elementary School. The vehicle, which had California plates, was apparently a rental car, said sheriff's Sgt. Jim Laing.

"It appears he had car problems and he may have run out of gas, but we're not sure" because investigators have not yet tested the vehicle, Laing said Tuesday.

Witnesses said he brandished two rifles, pointing them menacingly as he walked toward the elementary school. Other witnesses said he fired at them, with some reporting bullets whizzing past them.

Laing said Ficker appears to have been shot by the officers as he was scaling a fence at the elementary school and may have fallen into a ravine.

"You just can't have a guy like that running free in the community, and the fence would've put greater distance between him and the officers," Laing said, noting that there were lots of children and families in the area at the time of the shooting.

An estimated 150 people were gathered nearby for a youth football game when police confronted Ficker. Participants were herded under the bleachers, where they heard the gunshots.

The Issaquah police involved in the shooting have been placed on paid administrative leave, which is standard procedure in officer-involved shootings.

Ficker's ex-wife, who now lives in Georgia, declined to be interviewed on Tuesday. Ficker's father, who lives in Skagit County, also declined to be interviewed out of respect for his son's privacy.

According to King County property records, Ficker has owned the house since 1989. The property is approximately six miles south of Clark Elementary School.

On Sept. 18, less than a week before he was killed, Ficker posted a link on his Facebook page for a New Zealand support group called the Hearing Voices Network.

"People have always heard voices and had visions, since time began. We believe that hearing voices in itself is not an illness," says the network's website.

The link was only the fifth item Ficker posted on his Facebook page, and the first since January.

Ficker does not have a known criminal history in Washington state, according to court records.

Seattle Times news researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this report, which includes information from Times archives.

Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or sgreen@seattletimes.com

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