Killing spree hits close to home

The Island County Sheriff’s Office offered help to its neighbor Tuesday after a man went on a shooting rampage in Skagit County, killing a sheriff’s deputy and five other people, and wounding two, before leading officers on a high-speed chase.

“This really hit us hard,” Undersheriff Kelly Mauck of the Island County Sheriff’s Office said. “We know most if not all of the Skagit Valley police force.”

The suspect, 28-year-old Isaac Zamora, began the alleged shooting spree around 2:20 p.m. Skagit County Sheriff’s Deputy Anne Jackson responded to a call in the town of Alger and became the first victim.

During the chase, Trooper Troy Giddings was grazed in the arm and was treated for non-life-threatening injuries at United General Hospital.

The suspect surrendered to authorities near the Kincaid Street Exit in Mount Vernon.

Undersheriff Mauck said he sat on the “oral board” during Jackson’s deputy hiring process in 2005.

“I only knew her from a professional level, but she was a well qualified and an impressive candidate. She had a background as an animal control officer. She was very well liked,” Mauck said.

While the Island County Sheriff’s Department hasn’t been called in to assist, they extended the offer. In 1987, the Skagit County Sheriff’s Office helped in the case of two deputies who were killed in Coupeville after arresting a drunk driver.

The Oak Harbor Police Department may be called in to help patrol or fill-in for shifts, Oak Harbor Police Chief Rick Wallace said.

Sheriff Mark Brown said it’s also a tragedy for the Island County community because of the two counties’ close proximity. He described it as a “family loss.” Brown was monitoring traffic Tuesday evening and tuned into the state patrol scanner to listen to the transmissions.

“It was pretty chilling to hear that an officer, who is also a personal friend of mine, was injured on the police scanner,” Brown said, referring to Giddings. Before becoming sheriff, Brown served as a state trooper for many years.

After the shootings, a flood of calls came in from local officers, who were prepared to help at any moment.

“The officers here are upset and obviously concerned, but we will continue to do our jobs. Island County is here to help in any way and our citizens can empathize with the families,” Mauck said.

Chief Wallace said an officer from the Oak Harbor Police Department escorted Jackson’s funeral vehicle to the funeral home. Officers will also stand vigil at three locations; the funeral home, the Skagit Valley sheriff’s office and Jackson’s home.

“With six people dead ... it’s just unbelievable. For any officer on a federal, state, county and local level it does hit hard. We aren’t just saddened, it’s unsettling,” Wallace said.

Law enforcement officials are continuing to collect evidence. Zamora has a criminal record and history of mental illness. He was considered a high-risk offender, with convictions for theft and drug possession.

Mauck said this kind of incident concerns every officer because it is often unknown what a crime scene will be like.

“Routine calls can turn into a bad situation. It’s important to have law enforcement backup, tools and the right equipment,” he said. “This could’ve happened to anyone.”

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