Oregon City

Officer shot at scene of Oregon City house fire; suspect dead

Officer shot at scene of Oregon City house fire; suspect dead »Play Video
Armed police officers at the scene where an officer was shot in the face while he responded to a burning house. (KATU photo)

OREGON CITY, Ore. – A police officer was shot in Oregon City on Sunday afternoon while responding to a burning house, according to the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office.

The officer was shot at 841 Linn Avenue in Oregon City around 1 p.m.

Josh Wenzel, who lives across the street, said he had tried to help rescue the man from the fire.

He said when he found the man, he was holding a revolver and told Wenzel he’d set his own house on fire.

“I asked him what was going on,” Wenzel said. “He said something like he did it or ‘I set the fire.’ At that point I was going to pull him away. He was kind of out of his mind.”

Jonathan Priest, who was driving by, told KATU he saw the suspect shoot the officer.

"We saw a house on fire. I pulled over as a concerned citizen to check out what was going on. Right as we pulled up, police officers pulled up, fire department showed up," said Priest.

"The police officer lowered his guard for a second (and) right as he did, guy behind the fence shot him in the face and the officer fell to the ground," Priest said.

The officer's condition is unknown. He was flown by LifeFlight helicopter to Legacy Emanuel Medical Center. Witnesses said medics were performing CPR on the officer as they rushed him into the emergency room.

Brandon Paxton with Clackamas Fire said that when firefighters arrived, police told them to stay back because there was an armed suspect inside the home.

"It’s a very dynamic situation," said Paxton. "At that point we took a staged approach and waited for the scene to be secure."

Wenzel said after he got away from the house, he screamed at neighbors that the man had a gun. Soon, police arrived.

"I saw an officer pull up," Wenzel said. “He was saying, 'drop your gun.' He had his gun ready but he said 'drop your gun' again, and at the same time, that’s when he was shot in the head. And I was watching from our front porch about 20 feet away.”

Pam Laird was taking care of her grandchildren Sunday afternoon when she said the suspect tried to break into her house after shooting the officer. He was pounding on her back door, she said.

"I spotted him on my back patio and I told the kids to stay down," she said. "Thank God I had it locked."

Sgt. Robert Wurpes with the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office said a SWAT team confronted the suspect at the burning house and shots were fired. Wurpes said investigators are still looking into how the suspect died. KATU crews near the scene reported hearing several gunshots around 2:45 p.m.

It's unclear if anyone else was hurt, Wurpes said.

Police evacuated neighboring homes and closed streets while the SWAT team searched for the suspect. Families were later seen being escorted back to their homes.

The sheriff's office later tweeted that the situation had stabilized and police were transitioning to the investigation phase. Investigators will likely be at the scene at least24 hours.

"It's a very somber day," said Wurpes. "We're praying for the officer and the family right now and we're hoping for a speedy recovery."

Fire investigators are looking into how the fire started. Firefighters were still mopping up the fire Sunday evening.

Investigators will not release the names of the suspect or the officer until Monday at the earliest.

A property listing shows the man who owns at the burned home is Lawrence Cambra, who is in his 80s. Court records show a history of domestic violence involving a 70-year-old woman who used to live at the home. That woman was granted a restraining order against Cambra last October, but the order was dismissed a month later.

A judge also issued a firearms restriction against Cambra.

Update from police and fire at 4 p.m.:

KATU's Dan Cassuto, Stephen Mayer, Chelsea Kopta and Hillary Lake contributed to this story.