West Linn police sift through evidence in department parking lot where a man killed his estranged wife
A woman heading to the West Linn Police Department for help in a domestic dispute was shot and killed Tuesday afternoon, April 29, in the department's parking lot, police said.
Lisa Gayle McMurtrey, 51, of West Linn, was en route to the police department at 22825 Willamette Drive from her home near Mary S. Young Park as her estranged husband, Newton Bill McMurtrey, 56, of Damascus, chased her in a pickup.
As the two vehicles sped into the station's parking lot at 3:54 p.m., the husband rammed his truck into the side of her sport utility vehicle near the station's front door. Police said the husband then opened fire with a rifle, shooting through the SUV's passenger side front window and killing her, said police spokesman Sgt. Neil Hennelly.
Newton McMurtrey then turned the gun on himself.
He did not succumb to the gunshot. Firefighter paramedics from Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue took him to Oregon Health and Science University Hospital in Portland, where he died later Tuesday.
Screaming and horn honking
West Linn Police Chief Terry Timeus saw the final moments of the tragedy play out through his office window. He watched as the victim and the suspect drove into the department's parking lot and then shots rang out.
'We are saddened by the tragic incident,' Timeus said. 'Though we know our officers could not have changed the outcome of this shooting, we understand she was trying to make it here for safety. Our hearts go out to the victim's family.'
Timeus first heard screaming and horn honking as the cars screeched to a stop directly under his office window, which overlooks an alley between the police department and a gas station.
'I stood up and walked to the window and could see him pulling up what appeared to be a rifle,' Timeus said. 'And he was manipulating it to get the barrel out the window. At that point I drew my handgun and was trying to figure out what was going on. You're just not in that mode when you're at your desk.'
Timeus called 9-1-1 and called police officers in the building into action. At that point, Timeus said the woman's SUV pulled away and disappeared around the corner near the building's front door.
'As we were getting ready to go out there, we heard the first gun shot,' Timeus said. 'We relayed that shots had been fired. And then we heard the second gun shot.'
Timeus estimated about 30 seconds passed from the time the cars pulled up outside the building and when shots were fired.
'She was obviously trying to get the attention of police to help her,' Timeus said. 'Her doors were locked because she obviously didn't want anyone to get in. I don't think she knew he had a gun because she probably would have fled the vehicle.
'It's a sad situation. You don't train for that type of stuff. Once it happens, you're trained to deal with it. You're just not extra vigilant when you're sitting at your desk.'
Timeus said West Linn police had no previous contact with the couple because of domestic violence issues.
'They were unknown to us,' he said. 'This is a worst-case domestic violence situation. He was clearly very intent on doing what he did.'
Officers later learned that 30 minutes before the shooting, witnesses saw the suspect's truck ramming into the victim's SUV as they sped along Highway 43.
'She went from there, came down Highway 43 to the station,' Hennelly said. 'Timeus saw the cars drive in right under his window, sees a rifle in the truck and he called the officers into action. He crashes his car into hers. And from his car, he shoots her through the car window with the rifle. After he shoots here, he turns the gun on himself.'
Hennelly added: 'It is imperative that people call 9-1-1 immediately if they witness suspicious or violent behavior.'
Bystanders hear commotion
The two vehicles remained several feet from the entrance to the police department's business office into the evening - the windshield wipers on the victim's SUV still in motion in a cold rain - as detectives and officers investigated the scene.
Bystanders were immediately drawn to the commotion.
Mike Brown, manager at Life Support Community Center on nearby Willamette Falls Drive, heard the gunshots from inside the center.
'They sounded kind of muffled,' Brown said. 'I wasn't sure if it was a car backfiring or gunshots. And then I noticed there was no traffic going by outside. And at this time of day, there's always a lot of traffic. There was just police cars and fire engines going by.'
West Linn couple Mat Wallis and Sharon Ray noticed the commotion from their Boardway Street apartment overlooking the police department building.
'I came out for a cigarette before it happened, and all of a sudden all these police cars started gathering,' Wallis said. 'A cop pulled up on (Willamette Drive) with his rifle drawn. And other cars pulled up, focused on the building. But we didn't really see anything other than that, just a lot of police activity.'
They didn't, however, hear the gunshots.
'I'm surprised we didn't hear it,' Ray said.