Homicide investigation underway at Rainier School in Buckley after death of staff member

BUCKLEY, Wash. - The death of a staff member at the state-run Rainier School in Buckley has led to a homicide investigation.

Police said a female resident at the school is being investigated but is not under arrest.

They said it started as an assault case Tuesday morning and ended Tuesday night with the death of staff member Cody Buffington, who was assaulted.

"The mood is somber. They've lost one of their own. They've lost a family member," said Tim Welch from the Washington Federation of State Employees.

The school is a full-time residential setting for adults with severe developmental disabilities, run by the State Department of Social and Health Services.

Buckley police said the female resident allegedly got into a fight with Buffington and three other staff members on Tuesday morning. But, police said Buffington went home at the end of his shift, then started complaining of feeling ill and died later that night.

"The autopsy revealed things that steered us to do a more thorough investigation and that's where we're at right now," said Buckley Police Chief Jim Arsanto.

The police said it's now a homicide investigation to determine whether there's a connection with the assault and the death, or if possibly Buffington died from some other reason.

"We don't have all the facts in this tragedy, but if there is a connection between the assault and the unfortunate death of our member, it spotlights the very dangerous nature of these work sites out there," said Welch.

Officials said the resident has been removed from the school and relocated to another facility.

If there appears to be a connection with the assault and death, the police chief doubts whether the woman would face any charges because of her developmental disabilities.

DSHS issued a statement on Thursday that said, "This staff member was beloved and we are grieving this unexpected loss. We are working closely with the Buckley Police Department during this very sad time and deeply appreciate their assistance."

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