PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The brother of Michael Veatch thinks officials “failed” in trying to save the 32-year-old killed Wednesday near St. Helens.
Michael died from the “use of deadly force” by officers along Highway 30 near the community of Deer Island after a shooting at a gas station sparked a 12-mile police chase.
His brother, Matthew Veatch and Michael’s girlfriend, Savannah Eastman, both think he had been drinking.
Savannah said Michael had gone to Scappoose to buy a car from a friend. She said he called her early Wednesday morning and left a troubling text message that seemed very out-of-character. She said he told her he was lost and cold and needed help.
Savannah called Matthew for help. The pair split up to search for him and Matthew eventually got in touch with Michael over the phone. Michael told him he had rolled his truck.
“I said, ‘Alright, find a store name, find something so I can GPS where you are at,” Matthew said.
Matthew said he stopped at the Chevron station in St. Helens.
“Maybe two minutes after I go there, I saw his totaled truck driving down with two sheriffs on him,” Matthew said. “So I pulled out behind them and followed them back down Hwy 30.”
‘They said that he was dead’
Shots rang out at the St. Helens Chevron station at around 5:25 a.m. A man held an employee at gunpoint and began firing at cars and windows, witnesses said. No one was hurt.
A witness told KOIN 6 News the suspect fired up to 15 shots while trying to flee through her neighborhood before turning back onto Hwy 30.
Around that same time, one of Savannah’s friends called her and told her to turn on the police scanner.
“I started listening to the scanner and it was at the point where they said it was a high-speed chase,” she told KOIN 6 News. “I continuously tried to call him to tell him to just stop the car and pull over because I didn’t know what was going on.”
And then, she said, he “texted me and told me he was going to die and that he loved me.”
“I just kept driving because I didn’t know what was going on and I got to the scene, there was a couple cars in front of me and I couldn’t get through, so I dropped down a side road and came up behind the scene, where I could see what was going on,” Eastman said. “I was listening to the scanner and they said that he was dead.”
She left, she said, because she was too scared to approach anyone.
“Last I knew he was just running down the side of the highway. That’s all I know,” she said. “I know on the scanner it said he was hit and that they needed ambulance and medical attention right away.”
Savannah said she was told it was a police car that hit him, but “from my view I couldn’t really tell.”
“When I seen the ambulance drive away not long after and all the lights were off, I knew that he was dead,” she said.
‘Failed in any CPR attempts’
Matthew told KOIN 6 News he followed the police pursuit and got out of his truck after hearing gunshots on Highway 30. He ran to Michael, who he said looked as if he’d been hit by an SUV. He watched in tears as he saw responders leaning over his brother.
“They didn’t immediately perform CPR on him, try to resuscitate him,” Matthew said. “They cuffed him, they maybe did about 15 chest compressions, did not do mouth-to-mouth or anything like that. I believe they failed in any CPR attempts — failed in actually trying.”
Michael had a history with law enforcement. But Savannah isn’t sure exactly what caused him to snap at the Chevron station. She said he had his cat with him in the truck because they were in the process of moving. People who were at the gas station told her dad the cat had escaped and hid behind the Chevron station and Michael was looking for it.
“I don’t understand what was going through his head,” she said. “He’s been through a lot the last year. He lost his dad and some major stuff happened out in Cowlitz County and that kind of screwed him up a little bit. But we were getting through it, you know?”
Savannah and Matthew think Michael was dealing with the pressure of being linked to the death of a deputy earlier in the year.
Ties to DeRosier death
On April 13, Cowlitz County Deputy Justin DeRosier pulled Michael over on a traffic stop shortly before DeRosier was shot to death by Brian Butts. Court documents obtained by KOIN 6 News showed Michael called Brian to tip him off DeRosier was headed his way.
Savannah swears Michael did not tip off Brian. “He’s been so torn about that, too, because he thought they didn’t want to believe him because of his past.”
Michael was “confused. He didn’t understand why the guy (Brian) did what he did,” she said. “Anytime I tried to bring it up or talk about it, he would just shrug it off and say that. He said he doesn’t want to have to think about it.”
The 24-year-old said she and Michael had been together for 2 years and they were getting ready to move to central Oregon to be closer to her family. Now, she said she feels empty.
“That man is all I have. He made my family. I was about to give up before we met. I went from being the worst person to the best person over the 2 years that we were together.”
“My biggest dream was to marry that man. I mean, he was everything I’ve ever wanted,” Eastman said. “We had plans to have a beautiful life together.”