What might have been the routine arrest of a Eugene man wanted for failing to appear in court on drug charges turned into a deadly shootout with Salem police officers.
Before Friday’s tense, hours-long standoff ended with the gunman mortally wounded in a Wal-Mart parking lot, he had repeatedly fired his weapon at police while ignoring their demands to surrender, Salem police said.
His shots wounded a police dog in the head and narrowly missed a SWAT officer during the standoff before he was hit with a hail of police gunfire.
He was taken to Salem Hospital. Salem police said Friday night that he had died.
State police on Saturday identified the man as Mark Cecil Hawkins, 49, of Eugene. An autopsy conducted Saturday by Oregon State Medical Examiner Dr. Karen Gunson determined that Hawkins was shot nine times. The cause of death was gunshot wounds to the chest.
These and other details from the daylong confrontation that took place in the Wal-Mart Super Center on Turner Road SE in South Salem began to emerge Saturday.
The incident was the first fatal shooting by Salem police since May 2014. One of the officers involved in Friday’s shooting, Officer Trevor Morrison — as well as police dog Baco — were involved in the earlier shooting, too.
According to court records, Hawkins had been wanted since December 2014 on a failure-to-appear warrant out of Lane County. He was originally charged with delivery of methamphetamine.
Lt. Dave Okada, a spokesman for the Salem Police Department, said Saturday that the investigation of the shooting has been turned over the Oregon State Police, which is standard procedure. Any further details about the incident would be released by state police or the Marion County District Attorney’s Office.
Okada gave this account of Friday’s standoff:
It began shortly after 11 a.m. when Salem officers approached a man they believed to be wanted near the parking area of the Wal-Mart at 1940 Turner Road SE. The man was later identified as Hawkins.
During that initial contact, the man fled into a bus that had been converted into a recreational vehicle and refused to comply with commands to come out.
Morrison and Baco also responded to assist. The suspect came out of the vehicle, and there was an exchange of gunfire between the suspect and the officers. No officers were injured, but Baco was shot in the head. The suspect retreated back into the bus.
Baco was evacuated for emergency veterinary care as officers secured the area. Baco was released a short time later with only minor injuries.
Officers from Salem Police Department, Keizer Police Department, Marion County Sheriff’s Office and Oregon State Police all responded to the scene to set a safety perimeter and assist.
The Salem Police Department SWAT Team responded, secured the area and immediately began negotiating with the man. Negotiators spoke with the suspect for several hours, trying to get him to surrender. During the negotiations, the man fired shots from the vehicle toward officers, at one time narrowly missing a SWAT officer.
As the negotiations and shots continued, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, Oregon State Police and Portland Police Bureau sent additional tactical officers and equipment to assist in the situation.
After several hours of negotiations, tactical officers used armored vehicles equipped with battering rams to rip open up the walls of the vehicle in order to be able to see where the suspect was and what he was doing. Once the inside of the vehicle was exposed, the gunman refused to comply and had a handgun.
At that time, 6:28 p.m., officers fired at the suspect. He was struck several times and fell out of the bus, and he was taken into custody and transported to Salem Hospital.
The Salem Police officers involved in the initial incident were Officer Chad Galusha, Officer Robert Owings, Cpl. Tim Dezotell and Morrison. The tactical officers involved in the shooting of the suspect were Officer Joshua Edmiston, Officer Vincent Dawson and Officer Sean Bennett.
The officers involved in the shooting have been placed on paid administrative leave, which also is standard procedure.
At the Wal-Mart parking lot on Saturday, few clues of the tense standoff remained, except for police crime-scene tape. The bus had been towed to an impound lot, and a street sweeper was cleaning up small debris left over from the attempts to end the standoff by ripping open the bus.