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Rainier police officer shot, manhunt ensues

Shooting suspect Elliott later killed himself, police say


by: KOIN 6 NEWS - Columbia City police respond to the shooting of Rainier Police Officer Russ George on Monday, June 23.A Rainier police officer was shot and injured Monday, June 23, igniting a frenetic police response and manhunt in north Columbia County that involved multiple law enforcement agencies.

Officer Russ George was shot in the hand after pulling a red Kia Spectra with Washington license plates over at the intersection of Highway 30 and Veterans Way in Rainier at about 12:30 p.m., according to the Oregon State Police. The suspect, who has been named as Christopher Eugene Elliott, then pulled away and fled westbound on Highway 30.

Police said a SWAT team found Elliott dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head near his vehicle at about 5 p.m., after an extensive search in the Westport area, north of Clatskanie.

Jay Tappan, chief of Columbia River Fire & Rescue and a public information officer for Columbia County, said the suspect left his car near the intersection of Hermo and Collins roads, just south of Port Westward.

“He took off on foot and went up into the brush,” Tappan said. “He subsequently shot himself.”

During the manhunt, which involved several sheriff’s offices, state police and city police units, including a police helicopter from Portland, local residents were asked to stay inside their homes, according to Columbia County Emergency Management.

Mike Seely, a local mint farmer who was out of town during the day, said his family received an automated call alerting them to the situation.

Meanwhile, George and a reserve officer reportedly drove to the PeaceHealth St. John Medical Center in Longview, Washington. George was later transported by ambulance to Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in Portland, where he was hospitalized in serious condition, although his condition had been upgraded to fair by Tuesday morning. The OSP described his injury as non-life-threatening.

The bullet that struck George passed through his hand and hit his chest, according to police, but George was wearing a ballistic vest that prevented further serious injury.

Elliott, the suspected gunman, was a 30-year-old resident of Waitsburg, Washington. Police said he had no outstanding arrest warrants and have not determined a motive for the shooting. Tappan said police had received reports that Elliott was driving erratically, prompting George to make the traffic stop on Highway 30 at Veterans Way.

Highway 30 was reduced to one lane of travel following the shooting. Flaggers were directing traffic at the scene, Tappan said.

The incident response was coordinated by the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office, with multiple agencies on the scene near Clatskanie, including all police agencies in Columbia County, sheriff’s offices from Clatsop, Cowlitz and Clackamas counties, the Oregon State Police and the Portland Police Bureau.

The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post Monday night that the incident is under investigation.

Sheriff Jeff Dickerson did not return multiple calls requesting comment, nor did Rainier Police Chief Gregg Griffith.

The shooting of George was the second shooting of a police officer in Rainier in the last three years.

In January 2011, then-Chief Ralph Painter was shot and killed while responding to a reported theft — not far from where George was shot Monday, Tappan noted.

“It brought back some bad memories,” said Tappan.

Jess Warren told the Spotlight she and her daughter were in Rainier Monday and saw the red Kia pulled over on the opposite side of the highway. They turned the corner and heard two gunshots fired and men yelling, she said.

“It all [happened] so fast,” Warren wrote in an instant message. “It was a matter of a minute.”

Editor's note: This story has been updated.