UPDATE: Suspect in critical condition after shooting

June 14, 2013 

A 26-year-old Kennewick man was shot through the chest by a police officer Friday morning after running through a neighborhood near Horse Heaven Hills Park in Kennewick.

Dennis Jaymes Skellenger was in critical condition Friday night when he was sent to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, according to a Kennewick General Hospital spokeswoman.

A bullet grazed his left wrist, struck him in the chest and went out his back, said Kennewick Police Chief Ken Hohenberg during a press conference Friday.

Skellenger pointed a gun at three members of the Kennewick Police Department as they tried to arrest him following a chase, Hohenberg said. Officer Jeremy Taylor fired one shot at Skellenger after he pulled a gun. No other shots were fired.

"(Taylor) was confronted with an immediate threat," Hohenberg said. "He responded according to his training."

Taylor, who has been with the department for six years, immediately was placed on paid administrative leave after the shooting while an independent task force reviews the incident, Hohenberg said.

It is police department protocol to place officers involved in a shooting on administrative leave, he said.

The events leading up to the shooting started at 7:55 a.m., when police received a call from the AutoZone store on West Fourth Avenue in Kennewick after Skellenger allegedly tried to return merchandise he had purchased with a stolen credit card, Hohenberg said.

Police have had at least 169 contacts with Skellenger since 2000, Hohenberg said.

When police arrived, Skellenger sped away in a gray El Camino.

Police did not chase him, and a short time later they received calls from other officers and citizens about the El Camino driving fast and erratically through Kennewick. The car was reported driving near 19th Street and Highway 395.

Skellenger abandoned the car on West 27th Avenue and South Keller Street shortly after 8 a.m., police said. Skellenger then fled through neighborhoods near Canyon Lakes, hopping fences on the way, as residents called police.

Police then got a tip that Skellenger was hiding in a tractor in a field near Horse Heaven Hills Park off Yelm Street at 8:24 a.m.

They surrounded the area and Taylor, along with Cpl. Matt Newton and K-9 handler Brad Kohn, approached Skellenger, Hohenberg said. All three men gave Skellenger commands to come out.

Skellenger then pulled the gun, which Hohenberg described as a revolver, and Taylor shot him at 8:34 a.m., Hohenberg said.

Skellenger was taken by ambulance to KGH.

Hohenberg emphasized at Friday's press conference that all three officers reacted to Skellenger pulling the gun, and he feels all three acted appropriately.

Newton and Kohn will be allowed to return to work immediately, Hohenberg said.

Police also found a knife in a field close to the tractor, though they could not say if it was connected to the shooting.

Skellenger will face criminal charges if he is released from the hospital, Hohenberg said.

Residents in the quiet neighborhood where the shooting took place were shocked by Friday's events.

"It's a very nice neighborhood," said Paula Newbry, who lives right across the street from the shooting. "It's really quiet around here."

The Tri-Cities Regional Special Investigative Unit will be handling the investigation into the shooting. Kennewick officers will not take participate in the investigation.

This is the sixth shooting involving an officer in Kennewick in the past 10 years, with the most recent in September 2009, Hohenberg said.

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