Suspect in Washington State trooper death dies; was ex-con
ASSOCIATED PRESS February 23, 2012 4:28PM
Washington Sate Patrol investigators gather evidence at the scene of a shooting on Highway 16 in Gorst near Bremerton, Wash. where a Washington state trooper was shot and killed on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2012. The trooper, a 16-year veteran of the Washington State Patrol, had stopped a pickup truck around 1 a.m. on Highway 16 about 20 miles west of Seattle across Puget Sound. He radioed the location and license plate number, said Trooper Russ Winger. (AP Photo/Kitsap Sun, Larry Steagall)
PORT ORCHARD, Wash. (AP) — A suspect in the shooting death of a Washington State trooper during a traffic stop early Thursday shot himself hours later as a SWAT team closed in, authorities said.
Joshua Jearl Blake was the registered owner of a pickup truck that Trooper Tony Radulescu pulled over just before he was shot to death early Thursday, and the ex-con was also known to law enforcement in the area for meth convictions, assaulting the mother of one of his children and kicking out the window of a police car.
Investigators tracked Blake to a home near Port Orchard where he shot himself as a SWAT team closed in. He was taken to Tacoma General Hospital, where authorities say he died.
Radulescu stopped the truck around 1 a.m. on Highway 16 near Gorst, about 20 miles west of Seattle across Puget Sound. He had radioed the location and license plate number, said Trooper Russ Winger.
When Radulescu didn’t respond to dispatcher status checks, a Kitsap County sheriff’s deputy went to the scene and found the fatally wounded trooper outside his patrol car. He was taken to St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma where he was declared dead.
Three hours later, officers found the truck abandoned on a county road near Port Orchard, about two miles from the shooting scene.
Investigators received a tip on where to find the registered owner and went to the home.
“As our SWAT team made their approach they heard a single gunshot,” Kitsap County sheriff’s Sgt. Ken Dickinson said. “They found a male subject with a single gunshot wound.”
Radulescu, 44, was a 16-year veteran of the Washington State Patrol who served his entire career in the patrol’s Bremerton district.
He was a military veteran with a son in the area who is a soldier, Patrol Chief John Batiste said at an early morning news conference at St. Joseph Medical Center. He was well-known and popular in the community where he often spoke in schools, Batiste said.
“It’s a terrible thing to receive a phone call that one of your people is injured in line of duty. To have that compounded with a loss, it’s a bad day,” Patrol Chief John R. Batiste.
The chief has been consoling family and members of agency.
“They’re all hurting. I’m hurting,” Batiste said.
An aid car carrying Radulescu’s body was escorted by dozens of patrol cars with lights flashing from the hospital to the Pierce County medical examiner’s office where the autopsy would be conducted.
Boyer is a former 27-year veteran of the patrol and knew Radulescu well.
Radulescu was an immigrant from Romania who spoke five languages — a tremendous asset in the patrol’s investigations of auto theft rings with Eastern European connection, Boyer said.
Radulescu was wonderfully personable, he said.
“He could write somebody a ticket and they’d say thank you,” Boyer said.
The death was the first of a trooper on duty in 13 years.
Troooper James Saunders, 31, who was shot in 1999 during a traffic stop in Pasco. Nicolas S. Vasquez pleaded guilty to aggravated murder and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.