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Just how did David Durham escape?

Despite intense manhunt, suspect in shooting of Lincoln City police officer eludes capture

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Posted: Tuesday, February 1, 2011 3:07 pm

After a four-day manhunt involving hundreds of law enforcement officers from across Oregon and southern Washington, shooting suspect David Anthony Durham has, so far, eluded capture.

Durham was seen fleeing into the Bayshore area north of Waldport late at night on Sunday, Jan. 23, after Lincoln City police officer Steven Dodds was gunned down during a traffic stop on Durham's Dodge SUV earlier that evening.

The next day, about 100 law enforcement officers, including the Oregon State Police SWAT team, converged on the area for the first of four days of painstaking searches that led to officers locating Durham's dog but not the man himself.

On Friday, Jan. 28, police called off the search and, on Sunday, Jan. 30, the FBI announced that it has obtained a federal fugitive warrant for Durham - a process that requires a reasonable belief that a suspect might have crossed state lines.

The call

The police response began at 10:58 p.m., when Dodds radioed in an officer-down call to the Lincoln City Dispatch Center.

Lt. Jerry Palmer said vacations and sick leave meant the department had just three officers on duty that evening, rather than the usual five or six.

Palmer said Lincoln City dispatchers relayed news of the shooting to law enforcement agencies throughout the county but that no Lincoln City officers were involved in the pursuit of Durham as he headed south on Highway 101.

Three Lincoln County Sheriff's Office deputies were on patrol that evening, assigned to the north, south and east areas of the county - something Patrol Commander Lt. Dave Carey is fairly regular staffing.

Carey said all three deputies headed for Lincoln City upon hearing the call but that neither the south nor east deputy spotted Durham's SUV on Highway 101.

"I'm not sure what type of description they had," Carey said. "I don't know if deputies didn't know what it looked like or if it pulled off the highway for a time."

Lt. Mike Turner of the OSP Newport Area Command said he had two patrol troopers on duty that evening - one of whom passed Durham's SUV on Highway 101 while heading northbound to assist at the shooting scene.

Turner said the trooper was unable to turn around immediately due to the road configuration but radioed details of the vehicle as a potential suspect to other units, including Newport Police Department.

Newport Police Chief Mark Miranda said his department had the same staffing as Lincoln City that night - two patrol officers and a sergeant - a level he said is normal for a Sunday night.

Miranda said officers heard a shooting suspect had left Lincoln City and was heading in their direction.

"So our guys went up on [Highway] 101 at 73rd [Street] and sat and waited to see if he came through," he said.

Miranda said his department does not have the capabilities to install a blockade on the Yaquina Bay Bridge and would not choose such a tactic even if it could.

"It's not good tactics to put up a roadblock such as that," he said. "Someone could get hurt real bad in a crash."

"That's more of a Hollywood thing than real police tactics," he added.

Upon seeing the suspect SUV drive into town, the three Newport police officers made chase, pursuing the vehicle across the bridge and taking fire from the driver as they headed toward Waldport.

The stop

Carey said that, after the SUV was spotted in Newport, the sheriff's office called deputies who live in South County, waking them up and asking them to respond.

It was one of those off-duty deputies, Abby Dorsey, who ended the car chase using a spike strip to disable the SUV just north of the Alsea Bay Bridge outside of Waldport.

Miranda said Dorsey threw the spike strip when she saw the SUV approach and was able to pull the device clear of the highway before the pursuing police vehicles rolled by. She then returned to her residence to fully equip herself for the search.

The type of spike strip used by the sheriff's office is made up of hollow spikes that are designed to break away and embed themselves in a vehicle's tires, causing them to deflate slowly rather than blow out.

Miranda said he believes the suspect continued driving the SUV for a short period of time before the condition of the tires forced him to stop.

He said officers saw the suspect head to the west of the highway while his dog went east.

Miranda said the three Newport officers did their best to cordon off the area west of the highway but could not be sure that the suspect had not doubled back on them.

"That concern is always there," he said. "We do our best to cover the roads, the possible escape routes."

Miranda said that, as reinforcements arrived from OSP and the sheriff's office, police received an indication that their suspect was still within the cordon area when shots rang out from the spit, where someone, believed to have been Durham, opened fire on a crabber working with a spotlight.

As the night went on, more reinforcements arrived, including SWAT, but the subsequent search failed to yield results.

The aftermath

When asked where Durham might be, Miranda said there are three options.

He said Durham could conceivably still be hiding in a vacant house or might have tried and failed to swim across the Alsea Bay.

"Third," Miranda said, "he backtracked out some place and is long gone from the area."

That third option was deemed plausible enough by a federal judge who, on Sunday Jan. 30, issued a fugitive warrant for Durham.

FBI investigators say they backed their application for the warrant with evidence that Durham has either traveled to or expressed an interest in traveling to California, the Caribbean and Thailand.

The FBI is offering a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to the location and arrest of Durham.

Anyone with information concerning Durham's location should contact 911 if they are in immediate contact with him or call Lincoln City Police Department at 541-994-3636 with non-urgent information.

Tipsters can also call the FBI in Portland at 503-224-4181 or their local FBI office.

The view from the inside

When Bayshore resident and teacher's assistant Cheryl Erickson learned that Waldport schools were one a two-hour delay on the morning of Monday, Jan. 24, her first though was "snow."

But when her daughter-in-law told her police were searching for a gunman, Erickson realized that the bangs she heard the previous night had not been thunder after all.

Erickson said she immediately locked the windows, barricaded the door and told her two teenage kids to lie down on the floor where they spent most of the rest of the day.

At one point, Erickson said, she dialed 911 to report a man dressed in camouflage gear and a black hat walking along the side of the canal.

"We didn't sleep at all Monday night," she said.

On Tuesday morning, Erickson and her kids decided to leave the area, putting the dog in the back of the pick-up and undergoing a search of their vehicle as they drove past the police blockade.

The three stayed with friends until after the search was called off, eventually returning home on the evening of Sunday, Jan. 30, despite the teens' fears.

"They are still terrified," Erickson said. "They are scared to death."

Erickson said the family has been moving around as a unit, going to the car together and even sleeping in the same bedroom.

"I'm not going to feel safe until I know he's caught," she said, adding: "The fear of not knowing is what's the worst."


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1 comment:

  • fourtwozero posted at 9:11 pm on Wed, Feb 2, 2011.

    fourtwozero Posts: 13

    I still don't get it. Newport doesn't have spike strips? State police see the suspect drive by and don't give chase? Thank you Abby Dorsey for stopping this guy, very courageous act, I would have liked to see that truck get spike stripped. There are only three options of what happened to Durham. He either stayed put and hid in a house, he went north or he went south from the crash site. He was already heading south, my bet is he kept going south after he crashed. The north was blocked off, the housing development was being searched, but as far as I know there was little or no police presence south of the Alsea Bay bridge. A road block is not a good police tactic? Giving a shooting suspect an escort through town and making him someone else's problem is a good police tactic? Yeah, I still don't get it.