Rainier's police chief shot and killed during struggle

Rainier's police chief shot and killed during struggle »Play Video
Ralph Painter. Photo courtesy of the Painter family.

RAINIER, Ore. – Rainier's chief of police was shot and killed Wednesday during a struggle with a man in Rainier, a small Oregon town along the Columbia River.

Ralph Painter, 55, was responding to a morning disturbance call at a car audio shop on Rock Crest Street. Painter got into a struggle with the suspect, 21-year-old Daniel Armaugh Butts of Kalama, Wash., at the Sound Authority just before 11 a.m. and was shot. Painter later died from a gunshot wound at a hospital in Longview.

Columbia County Sheriff Jeff Dickerson said Butts was reportedly taking a vehicle that did not belong to him.

After Painter was shot, Butts then retreated into a business as other officers descended on the scene and returned fire. Butts was wounded and taken to Legacy Emanuel Hospital in Portland. He is under guard and is expected to survive.

Butts has no record of being violent but he has had quite a few run-ins with police.

Court and police records said he’s been arrested in Washington for malicious mischief, driving under the influence, negligent driving, twice for reckless driving, driving with a suspended license and several speeding violations.

Butts’ mother, Della Bartley of Rainier, said during a rambling, disjointed and often confusing interview, there was no excuse for her son’s behavior.

“He came up a couple days ago higher than a kite on something, and he wasn’t in his right mind two days ago,” Bartley said. “I realize he shot a police officer, and bless the police officer’s soul, but also bless my son, because he’s a victim of this society of what this government has done to these children. We have the highest unemployment rate in the history of the United States. The Mafia has these children at their mercy and they’re going to be shooting their own children because the government will not even lower their wages to feed people on welfare.”

She said the only reason that her son would have to shoot a police officer was if he was trying to commit suicide by forcing police to shoot him.

Rainier mayor & Columbia County sheriff discuss the loss of Ralph Painter Early afternoon press briefing by Columbia County Sheriff Jeff Dickerson

A senior pastor at the nearby church says one of the bullets whizzed by him, just inches away. It was not immediately clear who fired the shot that missed the clergyman.

"[The officers] were converging on the stereo shop," the Rev. Jeff McCracken of Rainier Assemblies of God told KATU Anchor Brian Wood late Wednesday morning. "...Rounds started firing. One [bullet] came through the window I was looking through, about six inches above my head."

He also said that officers were carrying assault rifles during the incident.

Dickerson said the fatal shooting would "have a large impact" on the surrounding community. "It's a small town, everyone knows who their police officers are here."

Painter had been with the Rainier Police Department since 1999. He was a former DARE officer and Rainier Councilman. He graduated from St. Helens High School in1974 and attended Clackamas County Community College. 

Butts was reportedly wearing a non-issued Cowlitz County Fire District No. 5 sweatshirt at the time of the shooting. However, the Cowlitz County Fire District No. 5 in Kalama says Butts "has never been associated with or had dealings with Cowlitz County Fire District No. 5."

Painter was married and had six adult children, ages 29 to 38, from a previous marriage. A woman who works nearby said he also has a 7-year-old son from his current marriage.

Dickerson said he personally knew Painter. "We rely on each other, we back each other up," Dickerson said. "We don't have a lot of resources, so we team up." He said Rainier has "less than six" police officers.

He said that numerous officers from several nearby bureaus, including from Washington, raced to the scene when a report of an officer down was sent out.

Roughly 25 officers from Rainier, the Washington city of Longview and other agencies were eventually involved at the scene.

According to a website that tracks the deaths of police officers, Rainier has never had a fatal incident in the past involving a law enforcement officer.

Related links:

See our highway camera Map of Highway 30 "Rainier man fed up, well-armed after repeat burglaries" from KATU.com


Press release from Columbia County Sheriff's Office

A reported disturbance at a Rainier car audio shop turned deadly this morning when the responding officer got into a struggle with a suspect, and was killed by gunshot.

The officer responded to the disturbance at 75938 Rockcrest Street in Rainier, the location for Rainier Sound Authority. The officer made contact with the suspect at the store and a struggle ensued. The officer was wounded with a gunshot and later was pronounced dead.

Police agencies from Every Columbia County law enforcement agency responded, as did officers and deputies from the Cowlitz County Sheriff's Office, Longview Police Department and the Washington State Patrol.

Additional gunshots were fired and the suspect was wounded and taken into custody. The suspect was taken to a local hospital under guard and has not been arrested at this time.