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Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Thursday, February 20, 2014 at 2:13 pm

DRIVER OF ABANDONED JEEP ARRESTED

• The motorist who slid off Bunker Creek Road yesterday morning and got a ride to work, leaving her Jeep Cherokee partially submerged in a creek was arrested for third-degree driving with a suspended license as well as hit and run with property damage. Deputies and the fire department responded about 7:30 a.m. to the scene, and spent quite a bit of time trying to find and rescue any possible victims, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. She should have called and reported it, Sgt. Rob Snaza said. “You’ve got people in the water, worried about her, a halfway submerged vehicle, firefighters jumping in trying to see if she’s in there,” Snaza said. “You know, taking all these life saving measures, and she’s at her workplace and didn’t think to call.” Elyse A. Skeen, 55, of Chehalis, who was located finally at the Adna store, had slid on black ice, according to responders. “When asked why she didn’t call, she said she just didn’t,” Snaza said. The damage portion of her alleged offense was to a culvert, according to Snaza. Skeen was booked into the Lewis County Jail. Her vehicle, which had come to rest on its driver’s side in four to six feet of water in Prairie Creek sustained major front end damage and was impounded.

BREAK-INS AND THEFT

• Centralia police say a 34-year-old Toledo man was arrested about 12:30 a.m. today after he was identified as being the person inside a storage unit at the 1100 block of Brotherson Road trying to steal property. Joshua J. Williams, was booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to Centralia Police Department.

• Centralia police were called just before 11 a.m. yesterday to the 1100 block of South Pearl Street about a burglary to a residence. Officer have possible suspect information and the case is under investigation, according to the Centralia Police Department.

• Someone stole more than $1,000 worth of equipment from a boat parked at the 100 block of Boshart Lane near Mossyrock during a nighttime prowling incident, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s office. A deputy responded yesterday and learned someone came onto the property around 4 a.m. on Tuesday and left with a flare gun, a depth finder, a two-way marine radio and four fishing poles with reels, Sgt. Rob Snaza said.

• A 41-year-old Centralia man was arrested yesterday in connection with an ongoing trafficking stolen property case and was found to be in possession of methamphetamine when he was detained, according to the Centralia Police Department. Eric J. Bates, contacted just before 2 p.m. at the 2600 block of North Pearl Street, was booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to police.

WIRING BLAMED FOR HOUSE FIRE

• The source of the fire that broke out in an Onalaska home last home last week turned out to be a short in an electrical outlet in an upstairs bedroom. Crews called on the evening of Feb. 12 to the two-story house at the 1800 block of state Route 508 found most of the damage in between the ceiling on the first floor and the floor of the upper level, according to the fire chief. The owner was away. Fire Investigator Jay Birley said he was able to track down the owner fairly quickly; he has a second home in another state, he said. The wiring in the master bedroom outlet had begun smoldering and ignited the blaze, according to Birley. He estimated the loss at about $25,000.

COLLISION

• A 52-year-old Chehalis woman was hospitalized after a two-vehicle accident on Interstate 5 just north of Napavine yesterday. It happened around 1 p.m. when there was quite a bit of hail on the ground, according to responders. Troopers called to the northbound lanes near milepost 74 learned a pickup truck slowed for traffic and Julie A. Chavez’s Ford Focus ran into its rear end. Both vehicles had to be towed and Chavez, 52, was transported to providence Centralia Hospital because of potential serious injuries, according to responders. She was to be cited for following too closely, according to the Washington State Patrol.

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Centralia police: Drug house cleared out by SWAT team

Thursday, February 20, 2014 at 9:11 am
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Two people are arrested when police visit home on South Pearl Street in Centralia. / Courtesy photo by Rachael Estrada

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Centralia police and their SWAT team served a search warrant looking for drugs yesterday afternoon at a house on the 800 block of South Pearl Street and arrested a resident for maintaining a building for drug purposes.

Rebecca J. Higgins, 41, was booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to police. A second person was arrested for an unrelated felony warrant.

About a dozen officers descended on the home about 4:30 p.m., along with their armored rescue vehicle, according to police. Sgt. James Shannon.

The armored carrier is is used with all their SWAT operations, Shannon said, for an extra measure of safety because they never know who might be present. Shannon said there were about six people in the home, but described the events that unfolded as ordinary.

“We knocked on the door, asked them to come out and they did,” he said.

Detectives recovered a small amount of suspected methamphetamine during their search, according to Shannon.

Higgins was arrested for also for possession of meth and delivery of a controlled substance in a school zone, according to police. The delivery count is related to what police called a controlled buy conducted within the past week at the house, according to Shannon.

Higgins also has other controlled substance violations pending in Lewis County Superior Court.

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Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Wednesday, February 19, 2014 at 11:13 am

RESCUE ATTEMPT YIELDS NO DRIVER

• Responders were called out about 7:30 this morning to a creek west of Chehalis where a Jeep was discovered on it side in four to six feet of water. Finding nobody inside after breaking out a window, a search was conducted for any victims, according to Riverside Fire Authority. Deputies had reason to believe there was somebody inside and the owner’s friends and family didn’t know where she was, the sheriff’s office said. Initially they were told she didn’t show up for work, Lewis County Sheriff’s Office Cmdr. Steve Aust said. It happened at the 1200 block of Bunker Creek Road just north of Stearns Hill Road, according to Firefighter Terry Ternan, one of the responders who waded into Prairie Creek. The driver was subsequently located at her workplace in Adna, having somehow gotten herself out, Ternan said. Aust said it turned out she’d slid on black ice and gone into the water, then flagged someone down to get a ride, without notifying anyone of what occurred.

FIGHTS WITH KNIVES

• A 21-year-old Centralia man sustained a minor cut on his hand and was arrested for second-degree assault after a dispute at the 2600 block of Seminary Hill Road in Centralia on Sunday evening, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. A deputy responding about 7:30 p.m. was told Dylan T. Danforth displayed a knife toward his mother’s boyfriend but it was taken away from him and nobody else was injured, Cmdr. Steve Aust said. Danforth was booked into the Lewis County Jail but has been released without charges pending further investigation.

• Chehalis police yesterday said they were investigating an incident from about 2 p.m. on Friday in which during a dispute over a vehicle a male pulled out a knife and made a threat. it happened in the area of Southwest Sixth Street and McFadden Avenue, according to the Chehalis Police Department. Nobody was injured, detective Sgt. Gary Wilson said.

PHYSICAL DISPUTE

• A 31-year-old Packwood man was arrested following a Friday morning incident in which he allegedly grabbed his girlfriend who was trying to leave their home during an argument and carried her back inside. Patrick D. Detwiler was booked into the Lewis County Jail for unlawful imprisonment but is to be released without charges pending further investigation.

• Police were called about 5:50 p.m. on Friday to Wal-Mart in Chehalis where an unhappy customer allegedly turned his motorized shopping cart around striking an employee. Larry D. Jones, 68, of Centralia, was arrested for misdemeanor assault and then released, according to the Chehalis Police Department.

SEXUAL ASSAULT

• A 26-year-old Centralia area man was arrested early on Monday morning for second-degree rape in connection with an encounter with an acquaintance who was at his home early last week. A report was made to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office on Friday, according to Cmdr. Steve Aust. Aust said Jonathan B. Charley was booked into the Lewis County Jail.

DRUGS

• Samantha J. Estep, was arrested for possession of methamphetamine after a small ziplock baggie containing the suspected substance was found as she was being booked into the Lewis County Jail early yesterday on a warrant, according to Lewis County Sheriff’s Office

THEFT

• The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office reported yesterday they were interested in a maroon mid1990s Dodge pickup with a matching canopy which was seen in the area of the 700 block of Independence Road outside Centralia around the time five aluminum wheels, 20 gallons of diesel and two brass gas caps were stolen. The theft was reported about 5 p.m. Thursday and had occurred sometime in the previous four days, according to the sheriff’s office.

• A yellow 1979 Toyota pickup was stolen from the area of South Schueber Road and state Route 6 sometime between 8 a.m. on Feb. 10 and 5 p.m. on Friday, the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office reported yesterday. It has a license plate reading B6783P, according to the sheriff’s office.

• Centralia police were contacted yesterday regarding the theft of copper being stolen from one scrap metal dealer and sold to another. The case is under investigation, according to the Centralia Police Department.

• Centralia police took a report from the 2000 block of Johnson Road on Monday regarding the theft of a solar powered real estate sign.

• Centralia police were called about 9 p.m. on Monday regarding the theft of a purse from a shopping cart at the 500 block of Harrison Avenue in Centralia.

INTRUDERS

• The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office reported yesterday a deputy took a report of someone entering a residence last week on the 300 block of Manner Road west of Centralia and toppling a refrigerator as well as damaging a toilet and some sheetrock. It happened sometime between 11 p.m. last Wednesday and noon the following day, Cmdr. Steve Aust said.

• Morton police reported yesterday an officer found a garage door ajar but nobody inside when responding to an alarm about 6:30 p.m. on Saturday at a residence on the 100 block of Adams Avenue.

• A 24-year-old Centralia man was arrested about 8 p.m. on Monday for reportedly breaking into an empty home to live at the 400 block of North Rock Street in Centralia. Travis C. Harris  was booked into the Lewis County Jail for burglary, according to the Centralia Police Department, but has been released without charges pending further investigation. Elizabeth J. Bowman, 30, of Centralia, was arrested during the same incident for criminal trespass, according to police.

AND MORE

• And as usual, other incidents such as arrests for warrants, misdemeanor assaults, driving with suspended license, driving under the influence, shoplifting; responses for alarms, disputes, suspicious circumstances, possibly forged prescription, misdemeanor theft, collisions, daughter overdue home after a date, child custody issues; complaints of surly customer … and more.

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Federal suit against deputy in Napavine shooting dismissed

Tuesday, February 18, 2014 at 5:01 pm

Updated at 8:11 p.m.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The lawsuit against former Lewis County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Matt McKnight regarding the fatal shooting of an unarmed Napavine man was dismissed by a judge, meaning no trial will take place.

Steven V. Petersen, 33, died after a brief standoff on a city street on the night of June 20, 2011, when deputies responded to a report Petersen had tried to get inside a former girlfriend’s home and was armed with a knife.

A federal judge issued a summary judgment in favor of Lewis County and the deputy on Thursday. The Lewis County Board of Commissioners were notified this morning.

U.S. District Court Judge Ronald B. Leighton wrote that even though the reasonableness of McKnight’s use-of-force could not be determined at this stage in the litigation, McKnight is entitled to qualified immunity and all Petersen’s other claims fail as a matter of law.

McKnight was cleared by an internal review and the county prosecutor concluded his use of deadly force was justified in mid-2011. He has since gone to work for the Chehalis Police Department.

The civil trial however, had been set to begin at the end of this month in Tacoma, although it recently had been postponed.

The civil lawsuit was filed in October 2012 by Petersen’s father, on behalf of the dead man’s 10-year-old son. His lawyers called it a ‘shoot first and ask questions later’ approach to law enforcement, faulting McKnight for choosing to engage in a confrontation before backup arrived.

The attorneys representing the deputy and the county said it was a split-second decision to shoot out of fear for the safety of himself and neighboring residents during a rapidly unfolding situation.

It was about 2 a.m. when the deputy encountered Petersen near the intersection of West Vine Street and Second Avenue. The interaction lasted one minute and 11 seconds; the two were 20 to 25 feet apart, the judge wrote.

Petersen paced back and forth, ignored the deputy’s orders to take his hand out of his sweatshirt pocket and then refused to get on the ground.

It came to an end when McKnight shot him four times because he thought Petersen was charging towards him and was going to stab him, according to the judge. As it turned out, Petersen didn’t have a knife.

A summary judgement is appropriate when viewing the facts in the most favorable light to the non-moving party, there is no genuine issue of material fact which would preclude it as a matter of law, according to Leighton.

Judge Leighton writes an officer is entitled to qualified immunity unless the right he or she allegedly violated was clearly established at the time of the alleged misconduct.

“Plaintiff cited no analogous cases to support his assertion that the law was clearly established such that McKnight was on notice that his conduct would violate Steven’s (Fourth Amendment) rights,” Leighton writes.

Other claims that were dismissed as a matter of law, were the municipal liability, the child’s 14th Amendment right to the companionship of his father and negligence.

A counterclaim by the defendants of malicious prosecution was also dismissed, because Petersen had a good-faith basis for the lawsuit, according to Leighton.

The complaint sought an unspecified amount of damages, but the claim that preceded it asked for as much as $10 million.

Lewis County RIsk Manager Paulette Young told county commissioners this morning she thought the most that had ever been paid out on behalf of the county was a case involving about $365,000 many years ago.

Sheriff Steve Mansfield issued a statement calling the decision fortunate.

“I am pleased with the findings,” Mansfield stated. “Although I am truly saddened Mr. Petersen lost his life, the facts are what they are.”

Judge Leighton although he concluded he could not resolve a question of fact in his summary judgement outlined what a jury could have been faced with answering.

A reasonable jury could conclude it was unreasonable for McKnight to shoot the man that he thought was armed with a knife who was 20 to 25 feet away without first warning him he would be shot, Leighton wrote.

However, a reasonable jury could also conclude the McKnight reasonably perceived a threat to his own safety based on all the circumstances and that he had to react immediately before Petersen was close enough to attack, he wrote.

•••

Read the judge’s order granting summary judgement, here

For background, read “Lethal force case against sheriff’s deputy ready for trial” from Wednesday February 5, 2014, here

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Breaking news: Two found dead in Napavine home

Tuesday, February 18, 2014 at 10:54 am
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The sheriff’s office awaits a warrant to re-enter the home and begin investigating two deaths. / Courtesy photo by Teona Kinswa

Updated at 5:43 p.m.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office is on the scene this morning where two individuals were discovered dead inside a home.

Sheriff Steve Mansfield said a friend of the 50-year-old woman who resides at the house on the 100 block of East Stella Street came by to check because the woman didn’t show up for work.

She found the woman, and a man, 60 years old, deceased, he said.

“We don’t know what we have here yet, I can’t tell you if it’s a suicide or a homicide,” Mansfield said.

Deputies responded about 8:50 a.m. They are not out looking for any suspect, he said.

There were no signs of a struggle and nothing at this point to suggest the community is in danger because of what occurred there, Mansfield said.

Responders found no obvious signs of lethal injury or forced entry into the house, according to the sheriff’s office.

Across the street neighbor Teona Kinswa said the two moved into the house less than six months ago. She didn’t know them, she said.

Kinswa said she woke up about 9:15 a.m. and saw out her window 10 to 12 police cars and yellow tape around the property.

“A sheriff came and asked me if we heard anything last night or this morning,” she said. She didn’t.

Mansfield said arriving deputies checked inside and then stepped out to wait for a warrant to go back inside the premises. He wouldn’t say where in the residence the pair were located.

Detectives will be processing the scene and investigating to find out what happened, he said.

The home is inside the Napavine city limits, but the Napavine officer was not on duty, according to the sheriff’s office. Sheriff’s detectives are assisting local police by conducting the investigation because of its complexity, the sheriff’s office states.

Autopsies are scheduled for Thursday. Investigators will be waiting for their conclusions and the results of toxicology tests to determine the cause and manner of the deaths.

The names of the individuals have not been released, only that they are related and both lived in the home.

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Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Monday, February 17, 2014 at 1:47 pm

WATER OVER ROADWAYS, RIVERS RISING

• A flood warning is now issued for the Skookumchuck River near Bucoda affecting Lewis and Thurston counties, with minor flooding forecast this afternoon. Heavy rains overnight drove the Newaukum River in the areas of Chehalis and Onalaska over flood stage already this morning with cautions about water over roadways, according to the National Weather Service. Still on “flood watch” status are the Chehalis and Upper Cowlitz rivers. The watch for Lewis, Thurston, Mason and Grays Harbor counties is in effect until Wednesday afternoon. Also, for eastern Lewis County and the mountains, the weather service says the most recent storm brought another 10 to 18 inches of snow since late Sunday; an additional 4 to 10 inches was expected to fall this morning; and the next storm could produce another 1 to 2 feet of snow tomorrow. Those who live in flood-prone zones are advised to keep an eye on the latest forecasts.

OUCH

• A woman who allegedly ordered food and walked out without paying and then kicked a responding Centralia police officer was booked into the Lewis County Jail yesterday for third-degree assault. It happened about 1:20 p.m. at the 100 block of South Tower Avenue, according to the Centralia Police Department. The arrestee is 48-year-old Eva A. Newton from Randle, according to police. Police say when she was contacted, she refused to give her name and wouldn’t cooperate and that the kick occurred during her arrest.

GARAGE INTRUDER

• Centralia police were called to the 400 block of South Rock Street about 12:15 p.m. yesterday where someone had gone into a a garage and rummaged through items, although nothing seemed to have been stolen, according to the Centralia Police Department.

CAR PROWL

• A purse was reported stolen from an unlocked vehicle at the 1000 block of Harrison Avenue in Centralia yesterday evening.

VANDALISM

• Police responded about 7:10 a.m. today to a report of wires damaged to an outside heat pump at a business on the 400 block of South Tower Avenue in Centralia.

DRUGS

• A 59-year-old Centralia man was arrested for possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver  about 8:15 a.m. yesterday at the 800 block of South Gold Street in Centralia. Michael E. Daicon was booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to the Centralia Police Department.

AND MORE

• And as usual, other incidents such as arrests for warrants, driving with suspended license; response for window broken out of an empty building … and more.

•••

Monitor “Weather Alerts, Forecasts” as well as “River Levels” from the National Weather Service with the links on the right hand column of this page. Lewis County Emergency Management offers a web page showing closures and blockages of county roads and in the cities of Chehalis and Centralia. LCEM has a link there for state roads, but it’s not clear if any weather-related updates have been added.

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Judge says no to attempt to take back molestation plea from Winlock man

Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 10:58 pm
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Reginald L. Juntunen, right, consults with his new lawyer about waiving the attorney, client privilege regarding his former lawyer who took the witness stand.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The Winlock man imprisoned for 25 years to life following a plea deal regarding the sexual assault of a child at a Mossyrock campground was denied his motion to withdraw his guilty plea.

Reginald L. Juntunen was 19 years old when the 8-year-old girl was attacked in a restroom, but wasn’t arrested until five years later in July 2012 after he was identified as a suspect through DNA.

Three and a half months later, without a fair opportunity to make an informed decision because of ineffective counsel, his lawyer says, he pleaded guilty to a 25 year minimum sentence. He was convicted of first-degree child molestation.

Juntunen, now 25, was back in Lewis County Superior Court on Friday, as was his new attorney Mitch Harrison and the court-appointed defense attorney who first represented him in the case, Chris Baum.

Joely O’Rourke, who prosecuted him, argued on Friday against the request.

Harrison told the judge a key issue was his client’s agreement to stipulate to the aggravating factor the offense was predatory, which added at least 15 years of incarceration. Harrison argued O’Rourke and Baum believed the factor was mandatory, without the benefit of a Supreme Court decision which said it was not.

Baum neglected to do any of the typical investigation for a case involving such a lengthy punishment, and he didn’t challenge the aggravator, Harrison said.

“The process in getting to the plea is more important than the plea itself,” Harrison said.

Among other failures the Seattle-based lawyer contended in his written motion, Baum presented no mitigating evidence to persuade O’Rourke to make a better offer.

When it was O’Rourke’s turn to make her arguments to Judge Richard Brosey, she told him she used her discretion in charging the aggravator because she felt the case called for it. And then she called Baum as her witness.

Baum explained he spoke to O’Rourke repeatedly trying to get her to drop the aggravator.

He testified he found the victim to be a compelling witness he was concerned a jury would easily believe.

His choices were limited in the way he proceeded, because his client in the very beginning told him he’d done it, he said.

“I thought there was a high likelihood he would be convicted, and I couldn’t find a decent defense,” Baum said.

After the hour and three quarters hearing, Judge Brosey denied the motion.

Juntunen’s lawyer plans to appeal the denial.
•••

For background, read “Winlock High School grad gets 25 plus years for molestation” from Wednesday December 12, 2012, here

 

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Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 4:36 pm

PHYSICAL DISPUTE LEADS TO CUT FACE

• Centralia police say a fight involving three individuals at the 1200 block of Mellen Street last night ended with one of them sustaining a cut to his face. Officers responding about 9:40 p.m. found one subject had fled the scene and the two remaining males refused to cooperate with police, according to the Centralia Police Department.

DRUGS

• A 23-year-old Chehalis resident was arrested for possession of methamphetamine and heroin as well as an outstanding warrant about 9 p.m. last night at the 2300 block of North Pearl Street in Centralia. Ammahd A. Bradley was booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to the Centralia Police Department.

THEFT

• Centralia police were at the 1000 block of Eckerson Road about 7:30 p.m. on Friday after an individual reported their babysitter took an Xbox and an iPad from their room. About two hours later from Eckerson Road, a male told police he let a female use his phone and she left with it, according to the Centralia Police Department.

CAR PROWL

• A portable heater was stolen from a vehicle at the 500 block of South Silver Street in Centralia, according to a report made to police yesterday morning.

• Centralia police took a report from the 900 block of South Schueber Road at about 6 p.m. on Friday regarding a purse taken from a vehicle

DUI WRECK

• A 46-year-old woman was arrested for driving under the influence after she was involved in an accident with a parked car at the 1000 block of North Pearl Street last night. An officer responding about 12:20 a.m. cited Laura J. Nelson, of Centralia, and then released her, according to the Centralia Police Department.

CHASE FOR STOLEN CAR

• A 19-year-old Centralia resident was arrested at the 1700 block of South Gold Street in Centralia at about 4:30 p.m. on Friday for eluding police and being in possession of a stolen vehicle. Steven N. Romero was booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to the Centralia Police Department.

WORKPLACE ACCIDENT

• Lewis County Fire District 6 was called to another industrial accident late Friday night involving a worker’s limb getting caught in a machine. Responders just before midnight to Hardel Plywood on the 100 block of Maurin Road in Chehalis found the employee in his 30s had gotten his leg stuck in a conveyor but he was freed by the time they arrived, Firefighter Kyle Eiswald said. He had been dragged but fortunately a co-worker hit the stop button, Eiswald said. The victim was stabilized and transported to Providence Centralia Hospital, he said. A week earlier, crews were called the Imperial Fabrication in the Chehalis Industrial Park where an employee’s arm was pulled into a piece of equipment with large rollers.

CAUSE OF HOUSE FIRE IN ONALASKA STILL UNDETERMINED

• Authorities are still trying to locate the home owner whose house caught fire in Onalaska last week. Firefighters were called about 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday to the 1800 block of state Route 508 where they found flames inside the two story dwelling and nobody home, according to the Lewis County Fire District 1. “We were able to get to it and get it out before it did a lot of damage,” Chief Mark Conner said. The chief said the primary area was in between the ceiling on the first floor and the floor of the upper level. The interior doors were closed, limiting the spread, he said. A firefighter from Salkum sustained a shoulder injury, but took himself to the hospital, according to Conner. The cause remains under investigation, he said.

AND MORE

• And as usual, other incidents such as arrests for warrants, violation of protection order; responses for hit and run, misdemeanor theft, graffiti to a building … and more.

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News brief: Wet and blustery conditions to continue

Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 2:34 pm

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – It’s a good day to cook up a pot of home made soup with warm bread and stay indoors.

Weather forecasters are saying to expect more wind, more rain and then announced a flood watch through Tuesday afternoon.

Conditions in Lewis and surrounding counties with gusts of up to 55 mph through late tonight mean the possibility of snapping small tree branches, toppling of shallow-rooted trees and power outages, according to the National Weather Service.

The advisories issued early this morning say additional heavy rainfall over the southern part of Western Washington could drive the Newaukum and Chehalis rivers over flood stage tomorrow, something also possible on the Skookumchuck and upper Cowlitz Rivers.

In addition, East Lewis County residents should be aware of a winter storm warning for heavy snow this afternoon into tomorrow on the western slopes of the Cascades Mountains, the weather service reports. Expect hazardous driving conditions.

Those who live in flood-prone zones are advised to keep an eye on the latest forecasts.

•••

Monitor “Weather Alerts, Forecasts” as well as “River Levels” from the National Weather Service with the links on the right hand column of this page.

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Police shooting: Former Oakville man died from multiple gunshots

Friday, February 14, 2014 at 9:23 pm
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Joseph R. Wharton, last weekend at Plummers Lake, Centralia.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CENTRALIA – The man shot and killed by a Centralia police officer yesterday relocated last fall from Arizona to Westport to live near his mother but in recent weeks had reunited with a former longterm girlfriend who resides in Centralia.

Joseph R. Wharton, 48, died from multiple gunshot wounds after a short foot pursuit when a patrol officer attempted to contact him outside a closed coffee shop on Mellen Street about 2:20 a.m. yesterday.

Police say Wharton was trying to scale a fence in a residential neighborhood when Officer Phil Weismiller caught up to him, that he confronted Weismiller and refused to drop a knife he had in his hand.

Lewis County Coroner Warren McLeod said an autopsy today concluded Wharton died from multiple penetrating wounds – meaning the projectiles didn’t leave his body – to his chest and abdomen.

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Elm Street, Centralia

McLeod would not reveal how many gunshot wounds he found.

Weismiller, a city police officer for about five and half years, was put on administrative leave while the matter is investigated.

The manner of death is listed as a homicide, the killing of one human being by another, according to McLeod. Whether it was justified is up to others to determine, he said.

Thirty-nine-year-old Sandra Ziady said she doesn’t know what her fiancee was up to to, or why he would have displayed a knife to a police officer.

“I have no idea, I wish I could find out,” Ziady said today. “It makes me really sad because everything we wanted is finally coming true; now its not.”

Ziady said the two met when they lived in Oakville some 20 years ago and have been together off and on ever since.

Wharton finished an approximately six-year stint in prison in New Mexico about two years ago, and then lived in Arizona to be near his three children who are in their early 20s, she said.

“He’s an amazing person,” she said. “He got in trouble and did his time, but was an amazing father and grandfather.”

She said his incarceration was related to a drug-induced psychosis.

He resides with his sister in Westport, but in recent weeks, he began staying with her in Centralia, Ziady said. She’s been living at the Lakeview Inn for the past two months, near her job at a convenience store on Mellen Street, she said.

Ziady’s shift ended at 11:30 p.m. on Wednesday, and he had texted her earlier and told her not to eat dinner, she said.

When she got home, the door was propped open and he’d lit candles and ordered Chinese food, she said. And he proposed to her, asking her to be his “forever”, she said.

However, he left about 1 a.m., she said.

“He said he had stuff to take care of, I asked what, he wouldn’t tell me,” Ziady said.

The location where he died on Elm Street less than two hours later is less than three blocks from there.

Ziady has talked with police and learned his car was found parked at an apartment complex a few blocks north of the motel. She wonders if he decided to walk home instead of drive, as he’d drank a couple of beers and little whiskey, she said.

She said she watched a video with police that showed Wharton behind the Fiddlers coffee shop, that he wasn’t doing anything, just walking around.

It surprised her, she said, that police claimed her fiance told the officer who first encountered him that he had a gun. He doesn’t own a firearm, she said.

Why he would, as police say, display a knife she could only speculate.

“I have no idea, he has had bad run ins with cops,” she said. “He might have been scared; he only has one eye.”

A team of detectives from surrounding police agencies are expected to complete their investigation into the incident within the next three weeks.
••••

For background, read “Police involved shooting leaves one man dead in Centralia” from Thursday February 13, 2014, here

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Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Friday, February 14, 2014 at 1:30 pm

Updated at 6:50 p.m.

INTERRUPTED BURGLARY CENTRALIA

• Police are looking for a burglar who fled on a bicycle yesterday from the 2100 block of Ahlers Avenue in Centralia. Officers were called about 11:50 a.m. when a resident arrived to discover a male in his early 20s inside the house, according to the Centralia Police Department. He was wearing a green stocking cap and carrying a black backpack and rode away on an older rusty green-colored bike, according to police.

OTHER CENTRALIA BREAK-INS

• Sometime between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. yesterday someone broke into a detached garage at the 3000 block of Zenkner Valley Road and left with a leaf blower and other property, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office,.

• A deputy was called yesterday to the 300 block of Joppish Road outside Centralia where a resident said he found pry marks and damage to his rear sliding glass door where someone apparently tried to get inside during the night. The deputy was told the man’s dog had been barking around 2 a.m., according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

• Centralia police responded about 9:20 p.m. on Wednesday to a burglary of a building at the 600 block of North Tower Avenue. The case is under investigation, police stated yesterday morning.

• An officer took a report about 8:40 a.m. on Wednesday regarding a break-in to a residence at the 1400 block of Winterwood Drive in Centralia, according to the Centralia Police Department.

• Police were called just after 1 p.m. on Wednesday to the 500 block of Courtland Street in Centralia when a footprint was found where someone had kicked the back door. At about the same time, damage was reported to a back door on the 2600 block of Eureka Avenue, according to the Centralia Police Department.

OTHER THEFT

• A deputy was called about 12:30 a.m. yesterday to Vader about a burglary to a storage building on the 500 block of A Street that occurred sometime since Wednesday, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. Missing is more than $1,000 of items including two boxes of jewelry, a drill and a saw, according to the sheriff’s office.

• A deputy took a report from the 700 block of Cannon Road in Packwood on Wednesday regarding a 6500-watt Honda generator stolen from a storage unit sometime during the first week in January, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. The loss is estimated at more than $3,000, according to the sheriff’s office.

POSSIBLE STOLEN CAR

• Chehalis police were called about 7 a.m. today to Southwest McFadden Avenue and Sixth Street by a woman who said she left her red Chevrolet Cavalier in the driveway locked up with the keys in it and it was gone. An officer learned it wasn’t registered to her and although she said she’d recently purchased the car, didn’t know its license plate nor could the name of the registered owner be determined, according to the Chehalis Police Department. Police in Chehalis will be keeping an eye out for it, according to Officer Linda Bailey.

FRAUD

• Chehalis police were called to Wal-Mart about 7:30 p.m. yesterday where they were told of a customer who allegedly took a vacuum that didn’t belong to her, returned it and was given a gift card instead of money back for the “return” and then purchased merchandise with the card. The case is being pursued as one of theft and trafficking stolen property, according to police.

• A 54-year-old Chehalis resident contacted police yesterday morning after discovering someone in another state ordered computer accessories with his account information, didn’t pay the bill and it was sent to collections. The amount was $337, according to the Chehalis Police Department.

CAR PROWL

• An officer responding about 11:30 p.m. yesterday to the 1000 block of Elm Street in Centralia arrested a 21-year-old man found inside a vehicle that did not belong to him. Police say Nathan E. Cline was attempting to steal various items. The Centralia resident was booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to the Centralia Police Department.

• An Oregon resident who stopped for a meal at Dennys in Chehalis last night called 911 about 10:30 p.m. when he discovered his welder missing from off his flatbed trailer. There were no witnesses to the apparent theft from the 100 block of Southwest Interstate Avenue and the victim acknowledged it could possibly have fallen off before he arrived, according to the Chehalis Police Department.

CAT DEAD, DOG BLAMED

• A 29-year-old Centralia man was cited on Wednesday morning for dog at large after his Pit Bull reportedly killed his neighbor’s cat. it happened in the 300 block of North Washington Avenue in Centralia, according to the Centralia Police Department.

OOPS

• An individual was cited for negligent driving when police responded just before 7 o’clock this morning to the Subway on View Avenue in Centralia because the motorist pulled into a parking tall too fast and struck the building, according to the Centralia Police Department. The business’s front door was damaged, according to police.

AND MORE

• And as usual, other incidents such as arrests for warrants, shoplifting; responses for theft of rental property from a business, hit and run, other collisions, suspicious circumstances,  disturbance; complaint of homeless persons going to the bathroom out of doors … and more.

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Police involved shooting leaves one man dead in Centralia

Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 10:03 am
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Centralia police say Officer Phil Weismiller caught up to the subject who was attempting to scale a fence on Elm Street.

Updated at 9:22 p.m.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CENTRALIA – A Centralia police officer shot and killed a man last night in a residential neighborhood after a confrontation that began when another officer attempted to contact the individual spotted behind a closed business.

It happened around 2:20 a.m. in an area just east of the Interstate 5 interchange at Mellen Street.

Police say the subject had displayed a knife and said he had a gun during the first encounter and had a knife in his hand during a subsequent encounter about a block away.

The deceased is 48 years old carrying an identification card, from Arizona, according to the Centralia Police Department. His name was not released.

Officers remained on the scene this morning conducting an investigation, along with the Washington State Patrol, at the 1200 block of Elm Street where it ended, according to a police spokesperson.

Police spokesperson Officer Patricia Finch said as she understood, an officer was on routine patrol and observed a suspicious person behind Fiddler’s Coffee on Mellen Street. Officers keep an eye out for potential burglars, she said. Officer Tracy Murphy tried to contact the male, who ignored Murphy and walked away, according to Finch.

Murphy in his patrol car followed him across the street to near the shuttered former King Solomon’s Restaurant building, according to police. Police say that’s where the male showed Murphy the knife, said he had a firearm, and then refused to drop the knife.

According to Finch, the male ran and was pursued on foot by the arriving second officer.

Officer Phil Weismiller met up with the male 100 to 200 yards away.

“(T)he male stopped and confronted the officer, holding a knife in his hand,” police stated in a morning news release. “At one point during the confrontation, the male was shot by the officer.”

The whole event happened within a matter of moments, Finch said.

Medics responded but the man was dead at the scene.

The commotion was frightening for residents of the short dead-end street.

Twenty-year-old Kassie Kohler said she and her mother were asleep on couches in their living room when her teenage brother alerted them he heard gunshots outside his window, she said.

“He Army-crawled from his room to the living room yelling, get down, get down,” she said.

When they finally got the nerve to look out a window, Kohler said she saw a patrol car parked on the lawn between their house and the neighbor to the west, headlights pointed toward the back corner of where the house met with a back fence.

It wasn’t 10 minutes, she said, before there were a dozen police and aid vehicles lining the street.

Police Chief Bob Berg offered more details as the day wore on.

Weismiller arrived in his patrol vehicle to assist Murphy and exited at the northeast corner of the restaurant property where access to Elm Street is barricaded. Murphy drove around to the intersection of Elm and Marsh Avenue to block that route, according to Berg.

Weismiller chased the subject and caught up with him in between two houses where he was unsuccessfully attempting to scale a fence, Berg wrote.

“At that point the subject, still armed with a knife, confronted Officer Weismiller and after refusing commands to drop the knife, the subject was shot,” Berg wrote.

The chief didn’t note how many rounds were fired. No details describing the knife were released.

Kohler said she counted 13 yellow numbered markers on the ground as law enforcement officers examined the scene.

Finch said she didn’t know if the deceased was just passing through town or had relocated here. Police would not reveal his identity until after his family is notified, she said.

Weismiller has been placed on administrative leave as is standard procedure, according to police. Weismiller, 34, has been with the department for a year and a half, coming from the Kelso Police Department where he worked about four years.

He is a former captain in the U.S. Army who has served tours in the Middle East, police said.

Murphy is a 17-year veteran of the department.

The Centralia Police Department requested assistance from what is known as the Region Three Critical Incident Investigation Team, a group of officers from surrounding agencies who look into such incidents.

A records check shows the deceased has arrest and conviction data in Washington, Oregon, Arizona and New Mexico, according to police.

Lewis County Coroner Warren McLeod said the man’s next-of-kin have been notified, but he won’t release the name until his identity is confirmed tomorrow through finger prints.

The team of detectives from the Thurston, Lewis, Pacific, Grays Harbor, and Mason County sheriffs’ offices are expected to complete their work within the next three weeks, according to Berg.

Their findings will go to the Lewis County prosecutor to review the actions of Weismiller for a decision regarding any criminal charges. Once that side of the matter is resolved, an internal use of force review board will convene in accordance with Centralia Police Department policy, according to the chief.

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A team consisting of detectives from the Thurston, Lewis, Pacific, Grays Harbor, and Mason County Sheriffs’ Offices conducting the investigation into the officer-involved shooting on Elm Street is expected to complete its work within the next three weeks.

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The other side of the fence at the house on Elm Street.

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News brief: It’s a scam

Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 1:54 pm

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The Washington State Office of the Attorney General is alerting the public to tricksters who are luring individuals to unknowingly rack up $9 per minute cell phone calls to adult entertainment hotlines.

Are you curious about a missed phone call from Antigua, Jamaica or some other exotic location, the office asked in a news release. The phone rings once, then disconnects and fraudsters are hoping you’ll call back, according to the office.

Don’t do it. here’s why:

Scammers are placing thousands of random calls to mobile numbers around the country.

Consumers could end up connected to a paid international “hot line”  located outside the country and find themselves charged $19.95 for the international call fee and then an expensive per minute charge.

The advice? Think twice before answering a call, or returning a call, from an unrecognized number.

Reports about such calls indicate some have originated from the following places:

• Antigua or Barbuda (area code 268).
• Dominican Republic (809)
• Jamaica (876)
• British Virgin Islands (284)
• Grenada (473)

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Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 10:18 am

Updated at 12:51 p.m.

HOME BURGLARIES AROUND ADNA

• Someone broke into a residence on the 300 block of Twin Oaks Road west of Chehalis, stealing numerous valuables such as a large television, speakers, tools and DVDs, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. A deputy called to the scene about 9 a.m. yesterday learned from the 31-year-old victim the burglary occurred sometime since Sunday, Sgt. Rob Snaza said. The sheriff’s office has been investigating thefts from the area, including Penning Road and Clinton Road and are keeping their eye out for a male described as bald and as tall as 6-feet 7-inches, Sgt. Rob Snaza said. The individual has been spotted in a small red car and could even be linked to incidents in Vader, he said. He asks if residents see a suspicious vehicle, ever, to go ahead and call them. “If you have a license plate (number), that helps,” Snaza said.

ATTEMPTED BUSINESS BREAK-INS

• Chehalis police responded just after 3 o’clock this morning to a “broken glass” alarm at a wireless provider business on Northwest Louisiana Avenue where someone had attempted to break the glass front door. A medium sized rock was found nearby and there were marks left, but the window was intact, according to the Chehalis Police Department. About 30 minutes later, someone tried to break in to U.S. Cellular in Centralia. Officers responded just after 3:30 a.m. to the 1100 block of Harrison Avenue where the front window to the business was smashed, according to police. It wasn’t immediately apparent what may have been stolen, according to the Centralia Police Department. An investigation is underway, according to police.

• Officers responded about 11 a.m. yesterday after a discovery someone tried to break in to a medical building at the 1900 block of Cooks Hill Road in Centralia. The case is under investigation, according to the Centralia Police Department.

GOGGLES STOLEN

• A home’s garage was burglarized at the 1800 block of North Tower Avenue in Centralia, police were informed about 7:30 p.m. yesterday. Centralia police say motorcycle goggles were taken.

FRAUD

• Centralia police took a report from the 400 block of Hemlock Street yesterday morning regarding an unknown person obtaining a credit card in the victim’s name, according to the Centralia Police Department.

VANDALISM

• Someone slashed tires on a vehicle at the 2600 block of Borst Avenue in Centralia, according to a report made to police about 2:20 p.m. yesterday.

POLICE: TOO DRUNK TO DRIVE

• A deputy called regarding a suspicious vehicle parked at a fire station on the 700 block of Logan Hill Road outside Chehalis at about 11:30 a.m. yesterday found its driver sitting inside, with the motor running and extremely intoxicated, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. Brandon W. Robinson, 45, of Chehalis, registered a .30 on the breath test, Sgt. Rob Snaza said. He was arrested and booked into the Lewis County Jail for being in physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.

• Chehalis police responding about 3 p.m. yesterday regarding a disorderly person outside the Lewis County Mall found the subject was intoxicated and parted ways with the man saying he would have someone come pick him up. About an hour an officer was called back to the same parking lot at on Northeast Hampe Way where the 51-year-old Mossyrock man was behind the wheel of his pickup truck with the engine running, according to the Chehalis Police Department. The officer woke him up and then arrested and booked Bobby D. Straughn into the Lewis County Jail for being in physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, according to police.

AND MORE

• And as usual, other incidents such as arrests for warrants, driving with suspended license, shoplifting; responses for disturbances, hit and run, other collisions … and more.

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Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 4:47 pm

NIGHT AT THE DEPOT

• Chehalis police dog Reign was sent in to the railroad depot in Centralia overnight when someone who didn’t belong there was discovered inside after hours. It was about 12:10 a.m. when police responded to the 200 block of North Railroad Avenue. “The K-9 went in, he gave up,” Officer Linda Bailey said. The man inside who reportedly lied about his name was subsequently was arrested and booked into jail for trespass, obstruction, criminal impersonation and forgery, according to the Centralia Police Department. Police concluded he is Michael A. Hilton, 30, of Chehalis.

BREAK-IN CENTRALIA

• Centralia police responded about 10 a.m. yesterday to a business at the 500 block of Harrison Avenue regarding a burglary which occurred sometime over the weekend.

FRAUD

• An officer took a report of unauthorized charges to a credit card from the 1300 block of South Gold Street in Centralia yesterday.

• A bank card was reported stolen yesterday from the 600 block of South Tower Avenue in Centralia.

• More reports are coming into the Centralia Police Department from individuals who have been victimized after trying to send mail from the Centralia Post Office’s outdoor mail drop bin shortly before it was broken into the end of January. Detective Sgt. Pat Fitzgerald said at least one person came in yesterday and police are learning of more checks that never made it to their intended recipient but were cashed elsewhere for different amounts than originally written for.

• Chehalis police took a report yesterday from a daycare business on Folsom Street which discovered an unknown person used their bank account to deposit checks altered after being stolen from the Centralia Post Office’s outdoor mail drop bin at the end of January. Money was deposited at the Centralia branch and then withdrawn from their account at a branch in Port Orchard, according to police.

TRICKY TRICKSTERS

• If you get a phone call from someone who says they are conducting an identity theft investigation and need you to verify your social security number, don’t do it. The Washington State Patrol has been getting reports from individuals receiving from calls from people identifying themselves as with the Washington State Police and the U.S. Justice Office from a 813 area code in Florida requesting folks to call now with their social security number, according to the state patrol. It’s a scam, according to agency spokesperson Dan Coon. Identity thieves pose as businesses, banks and government representatives to gain people’s personal information and can come across as legitimate and be very convincing, according to Coon. He recommends if phoned by someone who represents themselves as a state patrol employee and asks for information, to first call a local state patrol office to confirm if they really are an employee. He warns, never reveal your personal information to someone you do not know.

SHERIFF’S OFFICE CHANGES ITS HOURS

• Beginning tomorrow, the front windows at the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office will no longer open as late or close as early as they have been for the past two years. The office in the Law and Justice Center in Chehalis cut its hours previously as they re-allocated staff time to conduct the background checks for an overwhelming number of applications for concealed pistol licenses, according to a news release. They previously were open 9 a.m. 4 p.m.  The new hours are 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Sheriff Steve Mansfield notes citizens have the continued option to make an appointment to do business with them.

AND MORE

• And as usual, other incidents such as arrests for warrants, domestic misdemeanor assault in which the 19-year-old man who shoved his girlfriend got bit and then booked into jail; responses for non-injury accident on county road that resulted in major damage and non-injury accident on county road that resulted in minor damage … and more.

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Read about former Winlock man dies in Afghanistan bombing …

Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 4:43 pm

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Kirotv.com  reports a Winlock native was killed yesterday in Kabul, Afghanistan by a suicide car bomb.

Michael Hughes, most recently of Las Vegas, who previously worked as a corrections officer at McNeil Island was employed as a civilian contractor training Afghans to run their own prisons, according to the news item from the Associated Press

Hughes’ age was not reported. They write the blast took the life also of another civilian contractor and injured seven Afghans.
•••

KOMOnews.com has video

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Read about governor suspends death penalty …

Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 4:40 pm

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

King5.com reports a Gov. Jay Inslee announced a moratorium on the death penalty in Washington state, saying there are too many doubts raised about capitol punishment and too many flaws in the system today.

The news items from the Associated Press reports Inslee indicated he hopes the move will enable officials to join a national conversation on the issue, where 198 states have already abolished executions.

The Washington State Department of Corrections lists nine men currently sentenced to death.

Read more about it here

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Logging incident claims life of Toledo man

Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 8:57 am

Updated at 6:14 p.m.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A 21-year-old man was killed in a logging accident yesterday north of Morton.

The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office reports it occurred about noon at a logging site about a mile and a half east of the 1100 block of state Route 7.

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Tyler Bryan, 1992 – 2014

Aid responded and CPR was conducted for up to 45 minutes but the young man from Toledo died at the scene, Sgt. Rob Snaza said.

Snaza said the victim was working at the lower end of a slope about 1,500 feet from a landing zone when one of three logs being pulled up by a cable began to spin and struck him either in the head or chest.

The Lewis County Coroner’s Office identifies him as Tyler Bryan, of Winlock, as he recently moved there.

Bryan and his fiancee Sadie Firth just got their first home together last week, and are expecting a baby boy in April, according to a friend.

David Brosius who has known the Toledo native – who left high school to become a logger – for the past 10 years, compared his friend’s standing in the small town to that of the Duke brothers in Hazzard County.

“Everybody knew him, everybody loved him,” Brosius said. “He was a sweetheart.”

Brosius said two of Bryan’s co-workers who are close friends were at his side immediately after the accident yesterday.

Snaza from the sheriff’s office said he didn’t know who Bryan was working for.

An inspector from the Department of Labor and Industries went out there and is investigating today, according to a spokesperson for the state agency. The logging business is Brintech, based in Mossyrock, Elaine Fischer said.

It was just last month when another Toledo resident was killed while cutting timber. Sixty-three-year-old Alex Oberg was working alone at a site in the Toledo area on Jan. 16.

Oberg was not an employee, but the father of the owner of Dawn Til Dusk, based in Toledo, according to L&I. The sheriff’s office said a tree fell on Oberg as he was employing a “domino” tree falling technique.

Brosius upon getting word of Bryan’s death, set up an online donation account, knowing Firth will now be a single mother and thinking of the family’s funeral expenses, and, he said, because he felt like he wanted to do something to help.

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Subject of search from Centralia motel fire turns up alive

Monday, February 10, 2014 at 7:57 pm
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After hours of digging through the remains of a structure fire for a possible victim, excavator operator Mike Mitchell was happily surprised to see the subject of the search at a freeway exit in Centralia on Saturday. / Courtesy photo by Mike Mitchell

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The homeless man said to be squatting at the shuttered Riverside Motel in Centralia who had firefighters worried as they sifted through the burned rubble on Saturday morning turned up by that afternoon upright and alive.

Fire broke out about 2 a.m. on Saturday at the 600 block of Harrison Avenue and responders soon learned someone had delivered dinner the night before to a transient staying there. He was unaccounted for as the blaze was brought under control and then after daylight as an excavator assisted firefighters in moving debris around to extinguish hot spots.

Heavy equipment operator Mike Mitchell said he went about the task carefully, not knowing what they might find. It was disturbing to see a pair of boots at the scene, which looked as though he had taken them off and left them outside an entryway before going in, Mitchell said.

The man, who was described to Mitchell as a longtime resident who walks with a limp and carries a five-gallon bucket, was someone familiar to the south Thurston County resident. He’s seen him around town for he didn’t know long, Mitchell said.

Riverside Fire Authority wrapped up its work about 12 hours after it began, concluding there were no bodies among the rubble and nothing more could be done that day to explore the possible cause.

Police said they had gotten reports of varying numbers of individuals who may have been living in the motel. Temperatures were in the low 30s that night.

The single-story motel complex has long been out of business, and fenced in since a smaller fire in its northeast section three or four years ago. This weekend, it was two of three mobile structures on the northwest corner which burned.

It sits next to the bridge over the Skookumchuck River; its backside is adjacent to Rotary Riverside Park.

The building was on track to be demolished for development.

Mitchell, who had started his day at a job site in Chehalis, said he was heading back to get his truck around 4 p.m. on Saturday, when he spotted a familiar form holding a cardboard sign at the offramp from Interstate 5 at Harrison Avenue. The subject of his earlier search was standing on the corner in the snow begging, he said.

“Honestly, it was a relief for me to see him there,” Mitchell said. “I thought, ‘Oh good, there he is’.”

Centralia police confirmed today they located the man, whose name they did not release, but he hasn’t been interviewed yet. Fire Marshal and Assistant Chief Rick Mack wants to talk with him, as he attempts to consider possible human causes as to what ignited the fire.