Courts & Crime

Teacher killed at school by man who'd been harassing her

TACOMA, Wash. — A man reportedly infatuated with a 30-year-old special education teacher shot and killed the woman outside a Tacoma elementary school teacher Friday, police said. The gunman later was shot dead by a Pierce County sheriff's deputy.

The initial shooting occurred about 7:30 a.m. at Birney Elementary School, where the victim helped teach reading to kids with learning disabilities.

Witnesses told police the gunman, who lived in Ellensburg, arrived at the school about two hours before the teacher and shot her when she and a female colleague later arrived. No children were at the school at the time of the shooting. No one else was hurt.

The gunman, also 30, then fled in a car which a deputy stopped about half an hour later. The gunman reportedly fired at the deputy, who returned fire, killing the man, authorities said.

School was cancelled at Birney, and school district officials are discussing whether to cancel Monday classes as well, district spokesman Dan Voelpel said.

Authorities also evacuated a day-care center near the site of the second shooting. No one aside from the gunman was injured there. Tacoma police spokesman Mark Fulghum said the teacher and the gunman were acquaintances but were not in a romantic relationship.

The gunman may have been infatuated with the woman, Fulghum said.

She recently took out an anti-harassment order against the man in Tacoma Municipal Court, the police spokesman said.

The woman began working for the Tacoma School District as a substitute teacher in 2004 and also worked at Stanley elementary and Hunt middle schools before signing on at Birney in 2007, Voelpel said.

"This is a situation that doesn't cross your mind," Voelpel said. "You don't think it's going to happen and when it does, it knocks everybody flat."

Staff members were in tears outside Birney. Superintendent Art Jarivs was on scene and was seen hugging staff members as they arrived. A pastor who lives nearby walked over to the school with a Bible in his hand. As the teachers passed, he told them he was praying for them.

Following the shooting, witnesses provided descriptions of the shooter, which were relayed to responding Tacoma officers and other law enforcement in the county.

A Pierce County sheriff's deputy spotted the suspect's vehicle, sheriff's spokesman Ed Troyer said. The deputy got behind the car and, with the assistance of an undercover sheriff's detective, initiated a traffic stop.

The driver took off at a high-rate of speed. After about four blocks, the driver pulled over in a day-care parking lot.

"He came out with a semiautomatic handgun, he fired off a round," Troyer said.

The deputy returned fire, killing the man. It's not immediately clear where the man was going. The deputy involved has been placed on paid administrative leave, which is standard procedure.