[Vision2020] Deadly shootings in Moscow

Tom Hansen thansen at moscow.com
Sun Jan 11 04:38:10 PST 2015

Courtesy of today's (January 11, 2015) Lewiston Tribune.

Deadly shootings in Moscow
MOSCOW - A Moscow man is in custody after a series of shootings left three dead and one injured Saturday afternoon.
John Lee, 29, is being held in the Whitman County Jail on charges of eluding, a felony. At a news conference Saturday evening, Moscow Police Chief David Duke said Lee has been identified as the person responsible for the afternoon shootings.
"We will be processing paperwork with our prosecutor here to add additional charges as our investigation continues," Duke said.
David Trail, 76, Belinda Niebuhr, 47, and Terri Grzebielski, 61, all Moscow residents, were killed in the shootings. Police have determined that Lee personally knew them.
Michael Chin, 39, of Seattle, was injured Saturday afternoon. He and Lee did not know each other.
The three shooting instances were primarily centered around the downtown area.
303 E. Third St.
Around 2:30 p.m. Saturday, a caller reported to Moscow police that he had been shot near this location at Northwestern Mutual, Duke said. Police responded to the location - an apartment complex at the corner of Third and Jefferson streets just east of downtown Moscow - and found the caller, Chin, and a second victim.
Chin was taken to Gritman Medical Center with gunshot wounds to his left arm and left leg. According to a news release from the Moscow Police Department, Chin was in critical condition as of Saturday night. A hospital staff member declined to comment on his condition.
The second victim was Trail, a senior financial representative for Northwestern Mutual. Trail was taken to Pullman Regional Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.
Chin described the shooter as an Asian male with a handgun.
Police believe Lee knew Trail, but Lee had no relation to Chin. Chin was discussing office matters with Trail when Lee entered and allegedly shot Trail and Chin, Duke said.
"The shooter came in and immediately started shooting, didn't give any statements at that time to David Trail. He just started shooting," Duke said.
Dee Leclair, who works at Headquarters Hair Salon across the street from Northwestern Mutual, said she was at work at the time but didn't hear any shots. She saw ambulances and police arrive on scene.
Police told those at the salon to stay inside. The business decided to stay open to receive appointments, Leclair said.
Arby's, 150 Peterson Drive
Around 2:40 p.m., Moscow police received another report of a shooting at this location, about three quarters of a mile away from Northwestern Mutual.
"The suspect description of an Asian male matched the shooter description here on Jefferson," Duke said.
Niebuhr, the restaurant's manager, was shot and taken to Gritman Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead.
"The shooter, when he came in, did ask for the manager, and the manager did come out, and that's when she was shot," Duke said.
The perimeter of the restaurant was blocked off with yellow police tape and was closed for the remainder of the day. Near the drive-through window, white rags, blood and what appeared to be a beige coat were visible in the roadway.
Kelsey Stemrich, who works at the Red Star Coffee Company at the corner of Peterson Drive and Pullman Road, next to the Arby's, said she was helping a customer when she heard what sounded like three gunshots and saw people running out of the restaurant.
"One of our customers here said she saw a guy coming out, and she said, 'Oh, he has a gun. Get that license plate number,' " Stemrich said.
Stemrich then wrote down the license plate number, and the customer reported it to the police. She said she didn't see which way the car went.
"I was staying away from the windows at that point," Stemrich said.
The chase
When police received a description of a black Honda the shooter may have been driving, the information was passed onto Whitman County dispatchers, who issued a "be on the look out" alert, Duke said.
Pullman police spotted the vehicle on State Route 270 as it was entering Pullman, and they attempted to stop it. The Honda then led authorities - including the Pullman Police Department, Whitman County Sheriff's Office and Washington State Patrol - on a pursuit along U.S. Highway 195.
According to a news release from the Pullman Police Department, the vehicle was unsafely passing other cars and reaching speeds sometimes exceeding 100 mph.
Around 3:20 p.m., the car ran off the road and rolled near mile post 47, about 10 miles outside of Colfax, Duke said.
Whitman County Sheriff Brett Myers said Lee was booked into Whitman County Jail on charges of eluding.
400 block of Veatch Street
As police were gathering information on the shootings, they started looking into Lee's acquaintances, Duke said. Police went to this location and found another victim who had died from gunshot wounds.
The victim was Grzebielski, Lee's adoptive mother and a physician's assistant for Moscow Family Medicine.
It is not known if Grzebielski was shot before or after the shootings at Northwestern Mutual and Arby's, but Duke said it occurred within the same general time frame. Grzebielski was last seen around 2 p.m. Saturday.
Duke said police had determined that Lee had some "domestic issues" with his adoptive parents, but none that could explain the shootings.
Any possible motives in the shootings are unknown. Moscow police have not yet spoken with Lee.
"We probably won't be having any conversations with him until he's in our custody," Duke said.
Investigation continues
Duke said the Idaho State Police is assisting with the investigation, and will be taking over the scene at Arby's. The Latah County Sheriff's Office will work jointly with the Moscow Police Department on the scenes at Northwestern Mutual and the residence on Veatch Street.
Police are seeking search warrants for both the black Honda and Lee's residence, Duke said.
"We'll be working on getting warrants for his arrest to extradite him to Moscow," Duke said.
Past incidents
Moscow is no stranger to high-profile shooting incidents.
In 2007, Jason Hamilton shot and killed three people at the First Presbyterian Church in Moscow. Crystal Hamilton, his wife, Moscow Police Officer Lee Newbill, 48, and church caretaker Paul Bauer, 62, were killed. Three others were wounded before the gunman killed himself.
In 2011, a former University of Idaho Professor Ernesto Bustamante shot and killed Katy Benoit, a former student, before shooting and killing himself.

Seeya 'round town, Moscow, because . . .

"Moscow Cares"
Tom Hansen
Moscow, Idaho
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