Witness to shooting tried to save chief's life

Witness to shooting tried to save chief's life »Play Video
Rainier Police Chief Ralph Painter

RAINIER, Ore. – A man who just happened to be at the car stereo store on Jan. 5 where Rainier police Chief Ralph Painter was killed, witnessed the murder suspect beat and then shoot the chief.

It’s been a tough few weeks for the Iraq war veteran who didn’t want to be identified for this story. Just back from combat this summer, he was happy to be working his new job as a firefighter. But the National Guard soldier, who survived two tours in Iraq, lived through 13 minutes of hell at home and was there when the 55-year-old police chief was shot in the head.

“The only thing I want to be able to do is talk to his wife and let her know that I did everything I could do for him,” he said. “I was the first one there before he got shot and the first one there after he got shot. I just want to let her know I did everything I could.”

He was off-duty and was at the Sound Authority stereo shop that morning when he said the suspect in the case, 21-year-old Daniel A. Butts, violently beat Painter.

“I wasn’t acting on my job that day. It was just instinct from the military, but they know if someone’s hurt you’re not going to keep me away.”

As he tried to help Painter, he said Butts took the chief’s gun.

“I figured one of two things: Either he was going to shoot me or he was going to shoot the chief or he was going to shoot both of us.”

He won’t reveal much about what happened because he doesn’t want to hurt the case against Butts, but he said he watched Butts shoot Painter. The off-duty firefighter then ran to help others hide and heard the firefight with police. When it was over, he and two officers raced to try to save Painter.

“You could tell it was a brotherhood that they were trying to save him. It’s going to be a fight to the end and you could see that in their eyes,” he said. “They were definitely fighting for the chief. There was a lot of, ‘Come on Ralph, pull through.’ It’s kind of hard when you look back because you know there’s things you could have done.”

He said Butts had no reason to shoot Painter and the chief was not a threat.

Wednesday afternoon Butts was removed from the room during an arraignment hearing that was held via video feed. He disrupted the proceedings by cutting off his attorneys. He was angry because he said he couldn’t hear the judge read the indictment against him.

The firefighter said the outburst wasn’t a shock.

“Just says he’s pretty much a big jerk, just like the day everything happened.”

Butts faces multiple charges, including aggravated murder, attempted murder and robbery.