RAINIER, Ore. – The man accused of shooting the Rainier police chief in the head and killing him on Wednesday, was released from the hospital Thursday and booked in a Columbia County jail on an aggravated murder charge, according to Columbia County officials.
Police say Daniel Armaugh Butts, 21, shot and killed Police Chief Ralph Painter, 55, during a struggle at a Rainier car stereo shop following a disturbance call.
Unconfirmed reports indicate Butts was able to get Painter's service weapon away from him and then shot the chief, who was pronounced dead after being airlifted to a hospital. But the state medical examiner confirmed Thursday afternoon that Painter was shot in the head.
Officers responding to The Sound Authority stereo store at about 11 a.m. Wednesday fired at Butts, injuring him. He was taken to Portland for treatment. Columbia County Sheriff Jeff Dickerson confirmed Butts was shot and had a bullet wound.
Also on Thursday, a procession of law enforcement vehicles escorted the body of Painter from Clackamas back to Rainier. The procession passed through Rainier just after 5 p.m. and ended at the Groulx Family Mortuary. Many communities flew American flags at half-staff to honor him, who leaves behind a wife and seven children, the youngest being 7 years old.
The street was almost silent, broken only by soft crying, as the procession of vehicles passed by. Faces of those who lined the street were somber and many said healing from the tragedy will take a long time.
“We went camping four to five times a year,” said Clarice Anderson, a longtime friend of Painter. “We love him. Everybody, you can see, everybody loved him so much. He was only 55; he has a little boy.”
“It’s just hitting us really hard. So it’ll take a long time for all of us – I don’t know if we’ll ever come out of this,” said Dawn Cole who also knew Painter. “This doesn’t happen in a town like this. It just doesn’t.”
People said over and over again that Painter didn’t deserve to be killed. They said he loved the community and did everything for the community and said he would have been proud at the showing of support.
Rainier police Sgt. Greg Griffith has been named interim chief of the small Oregon town, located on the banks of the Columbia River across from the larger city of Longview, Wash. The two communities are connected by a bridge across the river.
Butts' residence was listed as Kalama, Wash., which is just south of Longview.
Butts’ father, Mikel Butts, spoke Wednesday night and expressed his condolences to the Painter family. Off camera on Thursday, the elder Butts said he expects his son suffered some sort of breakdown Wednesday and said mental illness runs in the family. He said his son’s relatives have experienced bipolar disorder and schizophrenia about the time they turned 20.
Butts said there was nothing in his son’s behavior that would lead him to think he would become violent, and he said it all doesn’t make sense.
Daniel Butts left his manufacturing job in nearby Woodland in August and family and friends said he struggled to find work. They admitted he had a temper but said he got good grades in his years at Kalama High School and community college in Longview.
They said he sometimes smoked marijuana but had quit drinking. His father said he didn’t think he was doing any hardcore drugs and said he desperately wants to see results of blood tests on his son.
Several people witnessed Wednesday’s shooting from several different angles. One of them was Bob Workman, who watched it unfold from his insulation company that sits across the parking lot from where Painter was shot and killed. He said he didn’t hear the gunshot that killed the chief but he did see and hear the ensuing gunfire that wounded Butts.
“The third or fourth one in grabbed an M-16 and kind of went over to one of the cars and then jumped out in front of the cars and shot through the window,” Workman said. “I guess when the guy started shooting through the window, I knew it was more than just the normal robbery. … He (Butts) wasn’t limping or bloody or bent over or anything. They led him out and put him in the back of a police car.”
He said he counted 38 police cars at the scene.
Workman and other sources said Butts started Wednesday morning with a visit to the auto shop next to the car stereo store. The owner of the auto shop, Dave Fowler, said he has known Butts for years and calls him “Dan.” He said Butts was acting “squirrelly” at his shop before heading next door.
Fowler said by coincidence Butts’ father had an alignment appointment at his shop Wednesday morning and left about 20 minutes before his son arrived. Fowler and the elder Butts discussed Daniel’s downward spiral over the last three months.
“(We were) trying to figure out what was going on in his life (and) why he was doing what he was doing,” Fowler said. “(He) just couldn’t get a handle on it.”
Thinking about the shooting kept him up all night, and he said change is needed in Rainier. “It didn’t have to go this way. We need to fund these people, get them some help, get the police officers – two people in a car.”
Church staff at the Rainier Assembly of God was just feet away when bullets started flying toward them. They said they believe those shots were intended for police, but authorities have not confirmed whether those shots came from the gun Butts was holding.
Pastor Jeff McCracken showed a reporter Thursday were bullets pierced a window and lodged in a wall and a door inside the church.
“There was an officer sitting on the ground with his back against the police vehicle and he’s sitting there crying, and I’m thinking he’s hurt,” he said. “Well, it turned out that he was Chief Painter’s stepson and he’s actually an officer, I believe, from St. Helens.”
Two other bullets struck the outside of the church.
KATU.com producers Bill Roberson and Steve Benham contributed to this story from Portland, and KATU News reporter Meghan Kalkstein contributed from Rainier.