A Longview man who was reportedly suicidal died Sunday evening after a two-hour encounter with Longview police and Lower Columbia SWAT ended in gunfire, according to the Longview Police Department.
Neighbors told The Daily News Monday that the deceased, Chris Johnson, was a “very nice” man with a nice family. He was married with two teenage daughters, they said.
The Clark County Regional Major Crimes Unit is investigating the shooting. It’s standard practice for an outside agency to investigate police shootings.
Clark County Detective Joe Swenson said next of kin have been notified, but Johnson’s body still was at his house as of midday Monday.
Cowlitz County Coroner Tim Davidson said early Monday afternoon that he had not yet been called to the scene.
Longview police officers responded to reports of a suicidal person with a weapon at about 7:20 p.m. Sunday, according to a police press release. After arriving at a St. Helens Addition home in the 400 block of 18th Avenue, officers saw the person with a weapon and heard a gunshot. Lower Columbia SWAT was then called out and nearby neighbors were evacuated, according to the press release.
SWAT officers “were involved in an officer-involved shooting and the subject was pronounced deceased,” according to the release. It did not contain more specific information.
Residents in adjacent houses were evacuated around 9 p.m., said Vicki Huff, who has lived across the street from the Johnsons for the past 14 years.
“I’m shocked,” she said. “I never thought he would do something like that.”
Huff said she heard on a scanner that police were responding to her street. She walked outside and saw Johnson’s wife, Shannon, coming out of the house crying and holding a phone. Police asked the woman to step away from the house, Huff said. She then heard Chris Johnson yelling expletives at the police.
Another neighbor, who declined to give his name, said he saw Johnson holding a rifle propped against a television before he moved out of sight.
The Johnsons’ dog Henry barked all night long, the neighbor said.
Neighbors were allowed to return to their homes around 10:30 p.m., Huff said.
Huff said she saw Johnson’s wife earlier Sunday when Huff’s dog got loose. Her fiance, Viktor Lopez, said he saw Chris Johnson the day before. “Everything seemed fine,” she said.
Another neighbor who was evacuated and who also wished to remain anonymous said the incident “wasn’t scary. It was just sad.”
“They’re a good family,” she said. “I don’t want to say a lot because they’re good people and they’re going through a lot already.”
Neighbors who lived farther down the block said they weren’t evacuated and the police cars didn’t use any sirens.
One woman said she didn’t know anything was going on until her brother stepped outside for a cigarette and saw the SWAT team. When he asked police what was happening, they quickly urged him to go back inside, she said. She went to bed with her 1-year-old around 9 p.m., she said, and her boyfriend heard about three gun shots a short time later.
Many of the neighbors said their block is usually “quiet.”
About 20 officers responded to the scene, which is typical for a SWAT response, Longview Police Chief Jim Duscha said Monday.
The two Longview police officers involved in the shooting are on critical incident leave per department policy. Longview PD likely won’t release their names until Tuesday at the earliest, Duscha said.
Clark County investigators expected to work until late Monday evening, Duscha said, and he didn’t expected to be briefed on updates until Tuesday morning. The investigation is taking a while because detectives are being “incredibly thorough,” he said.
Swenson, with the Clark County Sheriff’s Office, said investigators will use a 3D laser scanner to create a model of the scene. The technology will more accurately render the crime scene than traditional sketches and include more data and possible witness vantage points.
This updated technology is helpful in these scenarios, he said, because officer-involved shootings “are always scrutinized the most.”