VANCOUVER, Wash. (KOIN) — The residents of Smith Tower Apartments in downtown Vancouver were evacuated for most of Thursday afternoon into the evening after 3 people were shot, and 1 person killed, in the lobby of the building.
Witnesses, residents and family members of people who live at the apartment building shared information about what they saw when the chaotic scene unfolded.
Witnesses saw police suddenly storm the area
“I came around the corner and I saw a bunch of cops running with these giant machine-gun-rifles,” said Chelsea, who was walking to Brewed Cafe at the corner of 6th and Main. “I just kept seeing a bunch of cop cars storm the area.”
She stayed inside the cafe as more police arrived and began to block off streets and set up a perimeter around the apartment tower. She said the people inside were speculating about what was happening, and that she wasn’t sure how many people were injured or possibly dead.
“It’s a really scary situation to be in,” said Chelsea.”You never expect something like this to happen so close to home, but here we are.”
Another witness, Stefanie Marbach, just happened to be downtown when police arrived at the scene.
“I saw all of these cop cars just pull up,” said Marbach. “Everybody was running out in their vests and machine guns, and all of that.”
Not knowing what to make of the situation, she describes standing on top of a fire hydrant on the street corner to get a better view of what was going on.
“They just started blocking off all of these streets here,” she said. “Finally, there were probably about a dozen of us standing over here and one of the cops was like, ‘hey, go inside, it’s an active shooter situation.’ So we just all ran in here and locked us in for a little while until everything calmed down.”
Marbach said she did’t see much of anything and didn’t hear any shots fired, but she did see a picture of the deceased while she was still at the scene.
Thor Himle also watched as victims were carried out of Smith Tower Apartments.
“The first person they brought out was deceased, they put him down and he wasn’t moving, his stomach wasn’t moving,” said Himle. He also saw emergency responders tend to a woman. “It was like an older woman. They immediately started doing CPR on her.”
“Vancouver is a sleepy little downtown,” he said. “Stuff like this doesn’t happen.”
Relative of Smith Tower resident: “I hope he’s OK”
Carol LeRoy’s father, Charles Allen, lives at the senior living facility. She said her friend called her when she heard about the shooting and she rushed to the scene in downtown Vancouver.
“I’m very stressed and worried about my dad. I called him, no answer. Called him again, texted him, still no answer,” LeRoy told KOIN 6 News. “I told him to call me ASAP.”
She watched from outside of the building while police tried to negotiate with the shooting suspect inside. The lifetime resident of Vancouver said things like this just don’t happen in her city.
“I hope he’s okay and hope he wasn’t shot,” she said.
Once the suspect was led away in handcuffs, LeRoy got a text message from her dad.
“He says, ‘I’m okay. I’m in my apartment,'” said LeRoy.
They are now reunited, counting their blessings after a long ordeal.
“I’m glad that he’s safe and that he’s okay, and not injured,” she said.
Resident saw ‘3 people down’ in lobby of Smith Tower Apartments
Randall Merriman has lived for about 2 years at Smith Tower Apartments. He said he walked into the lobby of the building just after the shooting.
“I saw 3 people down in the lobby,” he said, adding he knew one person — a man named Dean — who was shot. He’s unsure of the severity of his friend’s injuries. “I didn’t get that close to look.”
Merriman, though, said he’s “not too worried about things.” These type of shootings generally involve someone with mental illness and are usually isolated, he said.
“It’s a safe building. I’m not worried.”
Merriman said he never saw the shooter.