Quick response and sound judgment by law enforcement may have prevented a huge disaster after several police and deputies converged on a shooting incident that turned into a suicide at a RV park in Long Beach last Monday (April 7). The man had barricaded himself inside his residence and fired a gun.
“Everybody worked together so perfectly,” Pacific County Sheriff Scott Johnson told the Herald. “We were very fortunate that we had training going on in the south county office, so we had more than enough deputies. That allowed us to quickly mobilize and contain the scene along with the firemen and medics.
“It went pretty smooth,” Johnson said. “It's the type of thing we train for all the time. These type of things are not out of the ordinary. Fortunately, there were no innocent (fatalities). We did have a victim, but no one else was killed.”
The Long Beach Police Department were the first to respond to the scene at the Safe Haven RV Park located at 1310 North Pacific Highway. Also arriving for support were the Pacific County Sheriff's Office, Raymond Police Department, Washington State Patrol, Cowlitz County Sheriff's Office, the U.S. Department of Fish and Game, and the Department of Fish and Wildlife. In all, about 20 law enforcement personnel at the scene, including seven from the Sheriff's Office. There were also trauma and fire units on hand. The RV park was surrounded and residents were evacuated. A couple of SWAT teams from Lewis and Thurston counties and a negotiator from Cowlitz County were sent back after the shooter killed himself.
Dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound is Marvin Nelson, 36, of Long Beach. The man committed suicide after he had shot a man in the leg and arm with a shotgun. The shotgun was loaded with birdshot. Birdshot is small-gauge pellets used to hunt game birds. Wounded was a neighbor, Kevin Tore. It was not officially known what caused an argument between Nelson and Tore.
According to Sheriff Johnson the standoff between Nelson and police last about an hour and 50 minutes. It all ignited at approximately 11:45 a.m.
“It wasn't conveyed what exactly started the whole thing,” Johnson said.
“A lot of people resided at the trailer court and we were concerned for the safety of everyone there,” Johnson said. “When we arrived, there was still a number of people there. He (Nelson) was firing when Chief Writght and Deputy Travis Ostgaard arrived on the scene.
“He (Nelson) fired five or six shots right after (Wright) arrived. I don't know where he was shooting or what direction the shots were fired,” Johnson said.
None of the shots were fired at officers.
Tore was life-flighted to Portland, according to Johnson.
“The WSP (Washington State Patrol) blocked the perimeter, while we diverted traffic off State Route 103 because it was too close to where the active shooter was,” Johnson said.
For much of the ordeal, Johnson was stationed at the command center, along with Raymond Police Chief Chuck Spoor. Long Beach Police Chief Flint Wright and Chief Criminal Deputy Pat Matlock were in charge of the ordeal.
Ay approximately 1:15, Martin lit the trailer house on fire from inside. The Pacific County Fire District No. 1 (Ocean Park) was on the scene to put out the blaze.
“We don't know why he started the fire,” Johnson said. “Maybe as a means of suicide; it's all speculation. When the fire started, I thought, oh no, this looks like a Waco situation.”
Sheriff Johnson said that police tried to talk Nelson into peacefully surrendering before he shot himself in the head with a shotgun outside.
“He was out of the trailer and he was asked to put the gun down,” Johnson said. “He was given commands and we tried to convince him that that was the smart choice, but he chose to shoot himself in the head with a shotgun. He told law enforcement that he wasn't going to be taken alive.
”It was a very visible thing for the officers to see,” Johnson said. “We held a briefing afterwards, and counseling was offered, but no one took us up on it.”
Sheriff Johnson said that contrary to some reports, “No law enforcement officer fired any shots.”
Sheriff said that he has been involved with several standoff situations over the years as a deputy.
“They happen regularly, but not that frequently,” Johnson said. “We've had a number of them in the county. I can't think of any that ended in this way. About 20 or more years ago, we had one that lasted for days that involved hostages, and fortunately no one was hurt.”
Sheriff Johnson said the standoff is the type of situation where a portable law enforcement radio network (portable two-way radios) would benefit local law enforcement. The cost for one is $2,500.
“I have pushed and pushed for us to have radios to talk to each other,” Johnson said. “We are one of the few counties that doesn't have radios. I'm working toward that goal to where we'll be able to talk amongst each other after we're out of our vehicles.”