Crime

He was killed in a standoff but it wasn't the first time Tri-Cities police shot at him

Tri-Cities police agencies were called to home on Jonah Lane in Benton City on June 7, 2018, after a reportedly suicidal man was holding a woman hostage. When he refused to let the woman go he was shot and killed by a Pasco police sniper.
Tri-Cities police agencies were called to home on Jonah Lane in Benton City on June 7, 2018, after a reportedly suicidal man was holding a woman hostage. When he refused to let the woman go he was shot and killed by a Pasco police sniper. cprobert@tricityherald.com

When Kathryn Tate first heard about the standoff brewing in Benton City on Thursday, she had a bad feeling.

She had talked to her long-time friend Doug Conner the day before, and he told her he wasn't doing well. He felt like he couldn't get help from his Department of Veteran's Affairs counselor.

A day later, a Tri-City Regional SWAT team sniper shot and killed the 50-year-old West Richland man, ending a three-hour standoff on Jonah Lane.

When she heard the news, Tate broke into sobs.

"There are people who love Doug," she told the Herald. "We're not happy that he's gone. There are people who advocated for him and who supported him and he just wasn't getting better.

Douglas Conner
Doug Conner

Officials have not released Conner's name, but several relatives and friends talked about him to the Herald.

Conner's friends believe a combination of mental illness and drug abuse contributed to his problems.

Even the long-time girlfriend he held hostage last week has trouble reconciling his actions.

While Ellen Haworth, 49, doesn't excuse what he did Thursday, she said Conner normally was a nice man who took food to local animal shelter and loved being outdoors.

"He was such a wonderful person," she told the Herald.

Tate, the owner and operator of Pasco's Columbia Memorial Funeral Chapel, had known Conner since she moved to Benton City 25 years ago.

Much of that time, she and her husband were good friends with him. For much of that time, Conner didn't have any problems.

"When people needed help, he would always try to help them," Tate said. "He was never violent toward me. He was a nice man."

He started to slide downhill in 2003 following an incident in his yard when he threatened to shoot police officers.

A Kennewick police sergeant fired at him with a rifle but missed. He eventually was tackled and arrested.

After spending some time in prison following a conviction for attempted first-degree assault, he never was the same, said friends.

Sometime in the past year, he began to change, Tate said.

The Army veteran with a 20-year-old son would offer grandiose plans of how he intended to get rich or begin seeming disconnected from reality.

Once when he refused to let Tate leave his sight after a trip to the Department of Veterans Affairs, she did not believe he intended to hurt her.

"He wasn't in his right mind," she said. "I was afraid that he would hurt me and blame himself. I just think he was suffering and not getting better."

Several people said he'd had troubles with methamphetamine.

The Tri-City Special Investigations Unit is reviewing Thursdays shooting to make sure proper procedures were followed when Pasco Officer Tom Groom shot Conner.

Groom, a Pasco officer for three years, is on paid administrative leave.

Problems started about 11 a.m. June 7 when Benton County sheriff's deputies received reports that Conner was suicidal, armed and at a home on Jonah Lane.

When police arrived, they found him inside with a handgun with several others inside. Four were able to leave, but he wouldn't let Haworth go.

Tri-City Regional SWAT team were called, along with crisis negotiators, but they had no luck talking him down. Officers described him as irrational.

Haworth told police Conner wasn't going to let her out, and he continued to hold her at gunpoint. He was shot after he repeatedly threatened to kill her and himself for more than an hour, said officials.

Tate hopes Conner's death highlights the need for more drug and mental illness treatment in the Tri-Cities.

"He was a good person, Tate said. "He just didn't get the resources he needed."

Cameron Probert: 509-582-1402; Twitter: @cameroncprobert
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