Law enforcement officers are investigating after an Olympia man reportedly stole a vehicle at gunpoint, drove the vehicle to Centralia and fired three shots into the air in the area of West Maple Street and North Washington Avenue shortly before midnight Wednesday.
Initial reports from law enforcement stated the shooting occurred on North Washington Avenue but the investigation has since revealed the shooting took place in the 600 block of West Maple Street, according to Centralia police. Three shell casings were found in the 200 block of North Washington Avenue, according to the same news release.
No injuries were reported. One bullet reportedly struck the window of a residence.
The suspect, whose name has not yet been released by law enforcement, was initially in a vehicle with a woman he knew in Olympia when he reportedly became “very delusional” and “paranoid” about people following him and stole the vehicle from the woman at gunpoint, according to Centralia Police Chief Stacy Denham.
The vehicle theft occurred approximately two hours before the shooting in Centralia, according to a news release from the Centralia Police Department.
Thurston County law enforcement have identified the vehicle as a white 2014 Subaru Impreza.
The suspect drove the vehicle to Centralia and was driving on West Maple Street when another driver who was traveling to work reportedly pulled up behind his vehicle, according to Denham.
At that point, the suspect allegedly fired three shots into the air to “scare” the other driver.
While the incident was initially reported as a drive-by shooting, the investigation has revealed that likely wasn’t the case, according to Denham.
“There’s no reason for it to be a drive-by shooting,” said Denham, adding that by definition, drive-by shootings require the suspect to fire on a targeted person.
“The person identified was well outside where he’d normally be,” Denham said, later adding, “There’s no indication that he knew anybody in the area.”
Investigators do not believe the suspect was firing at the other driver or at any of the houses in the area, according to Denham. Law enforcement later determined a bullet hit the front patio window of a home in the area.
Shortly after the shooting, at approximately 11:52 p.m. on June 8, an officer with the Centralia Police Department observed the suspect’s vehicle speed past him at approximately 65 mph in a 25 mph zone, running multiple stop signs and red lights, according to the news release.
At the time, officers did not know about the vehicle’s involvement with the shooting and because reckless driving was the only probable cause the officers had for an arrest — which is not a permissible cause for a vehicle pursuit under state law — the officers did not pursue. They lost track of the vehicle when it got onto northbound Interstate 5.
At approximately 11:54 p.m., dispatch advised Centralia police of a shooting complaint in the 600 block of West Maple Street, close to the area where officers encountered the vehicle that fled from them, according to the news release.
Law enforcement then began investigating and learned a shooting had occurred on West Maple Street, according to the news release.
Law enforcement officers with the Olympia Police Department and the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office then contacted the vehicle’s registered owner and learned the vehicle had been stolen, according to the news release.
Deputies with the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office later found the vehicle abandoned in the 3500 block of state Route 702 near McKenna, according to the news release.
The suspect had not been located as of 7 p.m. Thursday evening.
The Centralia Police Department is continuing its investigation in cooperation with the Joint Narcotics Enforcement Team (JNET), the Olympia Police Department and the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office.
Anyone with possible information about this incident is encouraged to call the Centralia Police Department 360-330-7680 or Lewis County Communications at 360-740-1105.