Bainbridge Island police received multiple reports that the man shooting from a sailboat in Eagle Harbor at the shoreline Saturday night was armed with more than one weapon, Bainbridge Island Police Chief Matthew Hamner said Sunday.
And officers quickly found themselves as new targets for the gunman once they arrived at the harbor on the southern edge of downtown Winslow.
Authorities said the shooter, a 34-year-old Seattle man, began randomly firing at the shore from his boat at approximately 8:30 p.m. Saturday.
Police from across Bainbridge and Kitsap County responded, and the shooter then began firing at officers in bursts of sporadic gunfire.
The standoff came to a deadly end roughly four hours later, when the gunman was shot just after 1 a.m. Sunday as two police vessels approached the man’s boat and he raised a rifle toward officers, Hamner said.
Police in the two vessels — mostly members of the Kitsap County Regional SWAT Team — quickly boarded the sailboat and pulled the shooter into a police vessel as Guardian One, a helicopter from the King County Sheriff’s Office, hovered over the harbor and shone a spotlight on the sailboat.
The shooter was taken to Washington State Ferries’ shipyard just west of the Bainbridge Island Ferry Terminal to awaiting medics, and Hamner said the man died at the scene.
Authorities released few details on the man Sunday. The investigation of the shooting has been turned over to the Washington State Patrol Criminal Investigative Division.
The Kitsap County Coroner’s Office has taken custody of the remains, and the man’s identity is expected to be released following an autopsy in the coming days.
The shooter had been seen around the harbor in recent weeks but did not seem to be a longtime visitor, Hamner said.
Multiple 911 calls came in to emergency dispatchers in the moments after the man began shooting Saturday night, with some callers noting the sound of gunfire appeared to be coming from different types of weapons. One caller claimed the man had a rifle and a magazine that would hold 30 rounds of ammunition.
Hamner, Bainbridge’s police chief, was not on the island at the time the incident began and was chaperoning a church dance in Port Orchard when he got the call about a shooter in the harbor from a fellow officer. Officers were hunkered down on the north side of the harbor and could hear rounds whizzing past and bouncing off the water.
Two Bainbridge officers took cover as the shooting continued, Hamner said.
There was a quick moment of disbelief, he said as he recounted the phone call.
“They heard bullets going through the limbs and leaves of the trees,” he said.
Hamner said Sgt. Ben Sias told him he was with another officer taking cover behind a metal CONEX shipping container.
“While I’m on the phone with him, he’s getting shot at again.
“I was incredulous. I was like, ‘Where are you, Afghanistan? You’re not getting shot at on Bainbridge Island!’”
The shooter was not close to the shoreline, and was some distance away. The gunman’s vessel was near the middle of the harbor, and had been put at anchor.
Multiple police agencies responded to the scene, including officers from the Poulsbo, Bremerton and Port Orchard police departments, as well as deputies from the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office, the Washington State Patrol and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The Coast Guard also responded, and Washington State Ferries canceled sailings to Bainbridge Island from Seattle for an hour at the height of the standoff.
Authorities cleared the harbor of boaters and kayakers who were out for a late evening, also the city dock and Waterfront Park, and also warned residents along the shore to “shelter in place” and avoid standing near windows.
Police expected the standoff to end peacefully right up until the end, Hamner said.
“We thought he was going to go … and he picked up a rifle and pointed it at officers,” Hamner said.
Review writer Luciano Marano contributed to this report.