GASTON, Ore. (KOIN) — A woman living near Hagg Lake said she noticed a strange man in the area hours before a shootout that left 2 deputies in the hospital.
The community near the lake is close-knit and seeing an unfamiliar face is rare for residents.
Therese Rice lives across the street from where 2 guns were stolen on Thursday, setting in motion a manhunt that culminated in a shootout between authorities and the thief.
Earlier that morning, Rice said she spotted a man she’d never seen before walking toward her road.
She returned home later in the afternoon. Her quiet community was swarming with law enforcement authorities a short time later.
“And then we heard the 2 sets of rapid gunfire… quite a bit of gunfire,” Rice said. “People target shoot out here sometimes. This wasn’t that.”
Rice told KOIN 6 News she was clueless about what was happening in the dense woods near her home.
“It was when we heard the shots we decided we better run in the house and see what’s going on,” she said.
It was then that Rice learned 2 Washington County deputies had been shot. The suspect was taken into custody about 30 minutes later.
Rice said the ordeal made her think back on the strange man she saw in the area. She said she remembered first seeing him at the lake store off SW Scoggins Valley Road on Wednesday night.
“We don’t know that this man was connected but it’s the first time in 5 years being out here we saw anyone like that,” she said.
As the investigation continues into the events that unfolded in the dark forest on Thursday, Rice is focused on helping her neighbors feel safe.
“I have incredible empathy for our neighbors and hope that we can rally as a community to support each other.”
One of the deputies who was shot on Thursday remained in serious condition at a Portland trauma hospital on Friday. The other injured deputy was recovering at home.
The suspect is also still in a hospital.
Look for updates from KOIN 6 News as we continue to follow this story.