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Mt. Vernon officer in 'very critical' condition after shooting; suspect held

A Mount Vernon Police officer was shot during a standoff Thursday night, Dec. 15, 2016. (Photo: KOMO News/Air 4)

MOUNT VERNON, Wash. - A Mount Vernon police officer shot in the back of the head is in "very critical" condition, a Harborview spokesperson said at a Friday morning press conference.

The hospital said the officer arrived at the hospital unconscious via helicopter and went into surgery about an hour later.

The hospital says the officer, 61, was in surgery for at least a few hours. Hospital officials did not release any updates on the officer's current condition.

"We're doing everything possible," Susan Gregg, Harborview spokeswoman, said. "We're taking this day-by-day."

Gregg said people can show their support by sending an email to the officer's family via the Harboview website and typing "Mount Vernon police officer" in the patient's name field.

"This gives you a chance to offer support without actually coming to the hospital," Gregg said.

Police arrested the suspected shooter early Friday morning, Washington State Patrol said. The 44-year-old suspect was arrested without incident after a 7-hour standoff with police.

The suspected shooter's identity has not been released, as of Friday morning.

Two other people were also taken into custody as "persons of interest," said Washington State Patrol Sgt. Keith Leary.

"A job well done by all law enforcement agencies and we wish the quick recovery of the officer who was shot," said Sgt. Leary. "He's in the hospital now with a gunshot wound. That's the biggest fear of any law enforcement officer out here."

Mount Vernon police initially responded to a domestic disturbance and reports of a man shot around 5:30 p.m. near Laventure Road and Fir Street, State Patrol said.

Multiple agencies and SWAT teams converged on the scene including the Skagit, Island and Whatcom County Sheriff's Departments, Marysville Police and the State Patrol.

The suspect remained barricaded in side the home and continued to fire shots as late as 10:00 p.m. Thursday.

When police arrived, they made contact with the suspected shooter, who then barricaded himself inside a home and began shooting at officers.

Part of the neighborhood was evacuated to a nearby church, where everyone was told to stay inside.

The Mount Vernon officer was shot in head. Sgt. Leary said the officer was conscious and alert immediately following the incident.

Officials say the officer is a 31-year veteran of the force. His name has not yet been released.

"There was a 'bang bang bang'. I had the kids go in the floor and don't really see much," said Maria Zendejas, who lives nearby. "I'm just shaken up with everything that's going on. Poor officer is down. You wouldn't think there's something going on especially just three, four houses down from mine."

Hostage negotiators spent several hours communicating with the suspect and officers fired gas canisters into the home.

At one point, officers thought there were hostages inside the home, though it turned out there were just the three people who are now in custody. All three were taken to the Skagit County Jail.

Sgt. Leary said the primary suspect is violent offender and well-known to law enforcement.

One neighbor, Mark Fossati, said he was fixing Christmas lights when he heard a shot. "I think, God, that sounds like a shot, and then 10 seconds later I heard bang, bang -- two more shots. And I looked around and about 10 to 15 seconds later I heard a shot and then a rapid succession of shots like bang, bang, bang, bang, bang. Then I knew something was really wrong. These are gun shots, and something serious is going down. So it was pretty terrible."

The shooting, he said, made him feel sick. "It brings it home as far as what our officers do and what they have to put up with and the hard work and dedication and what they do for us and community and how they put their lives at risk every day."

Nearby Laventure Middle School, was briefly put on lockdown. Skagit Valley College also went into lockdown and tweeted to students and staff to get inside and stay inside.

The area remains blocked to traffic while law enforcement officers investigate the scene. Police are asking people to stay away from the area. Sgt. Leary said evacuated residents would be allowed to return as soon as the area was deemed safe.

The names of the suspects in custody and possible charges are expected to be released Friday afternoon.

The first man who was initially shot during the domestic dispute went to a neighbor's house for help and was taken to a hospital.



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