PORT ORCHARD -- A Washington State Patrol trooper was killed at a traffic stop early Thursday, and the suspect -- an ex-con with a history of antagonizing police -- committed suicide as a tactical team closed in on the home where he was hiding, authorities said.
The 28-year-old suspect, Joshua Jearl Blake, had served time for drugs, assaulting his pregnant girlfriend, and kicking out the window of a police car, among other things, court records show.
He was the registered owner of a pickup truck that Trooper Tony Radulescu pulled over just before he was shot to death early Thursday.
Investigators tracked Blake to a home on a dirt road near Port Orchard, about 20 miles west of Seattle across Puget Sound. As SWAT team officers approached, they heard a single gunshot. Blake was taken to Tacoma General Hospital, where he died later in the day.
Radulescu, 44, was a 16-year veteran who served his entire career in the area. An immigrant from Romania, he spoke five languages -- a huge asset in investigating car theft rings with Eastern European ties, said Kitsap County Sheriff Steve Boyer, who knew him well.
"He was cautious. He practiced good officer safety," the sheriff said, his eyes misting. "Sometimes the odds are just against you."
Radulescu is the 27th trooper killed in the line of duty and the fourth Washington State Patrol trooper to be fatally shot.
The agency's last trooper death was in 1999, when Trooper James Saunders, 31, was shot and killed during a traffic stop in Pasco.
The patrol hangs a picture in every station of the last trooper killed. Saunders' picture, which has been up for almost 13 years, will be replaced by Radulescu's.
Radulescu stopped the truck around 1 a.m. on Highway 16. He radioed the location and license plate number, said Trooper Russ Winger.
When Radulescu didn't respond to dispatcher status checks, a Kitsap County sheriff's deputy went to the scene and found the fatally wounded trooper outside his patrol car. He was taken to St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma where he was declared dead.
Three hours later, officers found the truck abandoned on a county road near Port Orchard, about two miles from the shooting scene.
Radulescu was a military veteran with a son in the area who is a soldier, Patrol Chief John Batiste said at an early morning news conference at St. Joseph Medical Center. He was well-known and popular in the community where he often spoke in schools, Batiste said.