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Originally published Monday, July 21, 2014 at 6:18 PM

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5 officers on leave after fatal Kent shooting, propane blast

Five police officers are on paid leave after a dramatic manhunt, shootout and propane explosion in a Kent industrial district.


Seattle Times staff reporter

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Five Kent police officers have been placed on paid administrative leave after Sunday’s manhunt, shootout and explosion, according to police officials.

The officers fatally shot a man after he opened fire at them, Kent police spokeswoman Melanie Frazier said. Amid the gunfire, multiple gunshots hit a propane tank, which exploded, Frazier said.

Four of the five officers sustained minor injuries, including first- and second-degree burns in the explosion.

The name of the dead man was not released Monday by the King County Medical Examiner’s Office.

The Police Department has not released the names of the officers involved in the shooting, but it listed their ages as 54, 49, 46, 40 and 28. The officers have a combined 83 years of service on the police force, according to a statement by the Police Department.

The incident began at about 10:45 a.m. Sunday when police contacted a suspicious man at the Howard Johnson Inn near 86th Avenue South and South 228th Street, according to police.

The man attempted to attack an officer and fled, police said. Witnesses told police the man was armed, Frazier said.

Police secured a perimeter around a nearby industrial area and put local businesses on lockdown while they tried to find the man, Frazier said.

After a nearly two-hour search, police saw the man behind Signature Landscaping, where the shooting began just before 1 p.m., Frazier said.

After a volley of gunfire, shots simultaneously hit the man and the propane tank, causing the explosion, Frazier said.

The man died at the scene.

All four injured officers were treated by Kent Fire Department medics for burns and chemical exposure. The officers then were taken to Valley Medical Center in Renton for further treatment and have since been released.

It is unknown whose gunshots hit the propane tank, Frazier said.

A large hole was blown in the side of the ruptured tank, according to Dean Penner, operations manager at the company’s Kent location.

“I’m sure there will be significant damages, but police are still investigating the situation,” Penner said.

Jeff Lindsey was working at a nearby Office Depot at the time of the shooting and explosion.

“There was a smoke cloud about 30 feet in the air,” he said Monday. “People crowded around after to see what happened. There is a bar nearby that they put on lockdown, and people were there listening to the police scanner and trying to figure out what was going on.”

The state Department of Ecology also responded to the scene to assess chemical exposure from the explosion, Frazier said.

“Our initial concern was that the officers received first- and second-degree burns,” she said. “But our biggest concern became chemical exposure from the propane and other chemicals that were put into the air.”

Frazier said that there are no signs of chemical injury to the officers, but she said that it can take several days to detect.

“The officers are doing as well as can be expected considering the circumstances,” Frazier said. “It is a traumatizing thing and they are understandably emotionally shaken.”

Erin Heffernan: 206-464-3249 or eheffernan@seattletimes.com



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