Crime

Richland standoff ends with suicide

Guests at a Richland hotel were woken up early Friday and evacuated after police received a report that another guest with a gun was threatening suicide.

The standoff with police lasted about 41/2 hours until officers were able to confirm that the man had shot himself inside his third-floor room at the Courtyard Marriott at Columbia Point.

Benton County Chief Deputy Coroner Michelle Genack identified the man as Eric Ericson, 35, of Richland.

Until a month ago, Ericson was the manager of Cullum House in Richland, a house for mental health treatment operated by Lourdes Counseling Center.

State records show Ericson was a registered counselor in good standing.

Cullum House is an eight-bed home, staffed 24 hours a day, where patients with mental illness can stay for up to three months while they get training on how to live on their own.

Lourdes spokeswoman Melanie Johnston said Ericson resigned a month ago.

Earlier this week, some of Ericson's friends and former co-workers posted on his Facebook page encouragement in his job hunting efforts.

On Friday, they were sharing their grief.

One friend wrote, "A great man who will be missed and loved by many people. My thoughts and prayers to his family."

Another posted, "I still can't believe he is gone. Such a huge loss for everyone. Eric was one of the nicest, funniest guys I had the pleasure of knowing. Sending prayers to his family."

It was not known why Ericson was staying at the hotel or how long he had been there.

Officers got a call at 5 a.m. from someone who reported a hotel guest was threatening suicide. Officers then contacted Ericson, who confirmed he was suicidal and had a weapon. He then threatened to harm officers if they tried to get close, said Richland police Capt. Jeff Taylor.

That prompted police to back off, clear the second and third floors and partially evacuate some of the first floor while the Tri-City Regional SWAT team was called out.

Four snipers also positioned themselves on park benches near the hotel, focusing their rifles at a room at the back of the building.

The police activity drew a lot of attention from passers-by, including some motorists from out of town who were planning to check in to the hotel for the weekend.

Columbia Point Park and the boat launch at the marina were closed during the standoff, leaving many morning walkers, runners and boaters having to find somewhere else to go.

At some point, officers heard a gunshot from inside the room, Taylor said. The Richland Police Bomb Squad was then called. They were able to get the door to Ericson's room open and used their remote-control robot to check inside. Officers were then able to confirm that Ericson was dead.

Kathy Moore, the general manager at the Courtyard Marriott, said most of the guests were very understanding.

"Safety was everybody's first concern and the police department did an outstanding job," Moore said. "Our guests were understanding, almost to the point where it was surreal."

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