Tri-City police officers were lauded as heroes Monday after helping two women and a young boy escape a standoff that ended when a gunman was shot by police.
Officers used their bodies to shield one of the women as she was shot at while trying to climb down from a second-story balcony.
The trio escaped unharmed over the railing of the balcony about 3:30 a.m. as police say Roark K. Cook, 36, was armed inside the West Ninth Avenue apartment.
“In their words (it was) the scariest thing they had ever been involved in. You can imagine in the pitch darkness and you’re hearing gunshots and you know they may be aimed at you,” Kennewick Sgt. Ken Lattin said at a news conference. “And their whole focus is protecting this woman and getting her to safety. Pretty heroic, pretty scary.”
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Court records and documents show Cook had mental health issues and a violent history of domestic violence against several women in the Tri-Cities, including allegations of abuse by Maranda Hewitt, the woman who apparently lived at the apartment.
Cook — who had no-contact orders filed against him by at least four different women — was accused of choking an ex-wife, threatening to stab another woman while she was pregnant, forcing another woman into sex, threatening children, assaulting police and beating his estranged wife’s sister with a pot, according to court documents.
His mother called police early Monday to say she was worried he may harm himself or others, Lattin said. The woman told 911 dispatchers Cook had access to guns and his mental state concerned her.
Dispatchers notified Pasco police about the call and officers were able to determine Cook was at the apartment at 3320 West Ninth Avenue. Court records show Hewitt lives in the apartment. Relatives of Cook’s told the Herald the two once dated.
Police showed up to the apartment at 3:30 a.m. and a woman spoke through the door, telling officers everything was fine and to go away, Lattin said.
Officers then heard a disturbance from inside and tried to break down the door. Cook shouted that he had a gun and the officers retreated to evacuate neighbors and call for back up.
Richland police, the Benton County Sheriff’s Office and the Tri-City SWAT team responded to help Kennewick officers. A short time later the confrontation on the balcony happened.
A woman emerged from the apartment and handed a 7-year-old boy to officers waiting below, said Lattin. But Cook pulled her back inside as she tried to climb down.
The woman got back onto the balcony a short time later and as she climbed down into officers’ arms, Cook fired at least one shot, Lattin said.
Officers used their bodies to shield her as Benton County Deputy Logan Brown and Richland Officer Ryan Miller fired back.
Police said it appears Cook was shot during the exchange of gunfire. The second woman was soon pulled to safety after climbing over the balcony.
The Richland Bomb Squad blew open the front door to the apartment and used a robot to check on Cook, who was still moving, refusing to surrender and armed with a gun, Lattin said. Cook died a short while later.
Lattin called the officers heroes several times Monday, saying they jeopardized their own lives to ensure the women and child got out of the apartment alive.
Police tried to negotiate with Cook and get him medical help, but he refused to give up, Lattin said. It’s unclear how many shots were fired at Cook or if he was fatally wounded by one of the officers.
It appears Cook died from at least one gunshot wound, according to the Benton County Coroner’s Office. An autopsy is scheduled for Wednesday.
Brown and Miller, who have both been with their respective departments for five years, were placed on paid administrative leave, which is protocol following a shooting. A team of local police called the Tri-City Special Investigations Unit will investigate if the shooting was justified.
Police were working Monday to determine the relationship between Cook and the three people at the apartment, Lattin said. The women’s names were not released.
“It sounds like the woman with the boy it may have been her apartment and the other woman was a guest,” Lattin said. “But that’s all stuff we are trying to sort through.”
Cook has at least 35 court cases dating back to 1999, including convictions for violating no contact orders, domestic-violence related assaults, harassment, assault with a sexual motivation, malicious mischief and burglary. A majority of the convictions are related to cases where domestic violence was involved.
He was sentenced to several jail and prison stints as a result of at least 10 convictions, court records show.
In July 2014, Hewitt filed for a protection order claiming Cook slapped her across the face, choked her, head-butted her so hard it chipped a tooth and threatened to hit her son.
“When witnessing (Roark) slapping my face, my son asks, ‘Mom why is Roark being mean to you? ” Hewitt wrote in a petition for a protection order . “Roark told my son to watch his mouth or he was next.”
Hewitt indicated in the petition that Roark had been hospitalized in the past for suicide attempts and abused drugs, court records show. The petition was ultimately dismissed at Hewitt’s request less than two weeks after it was initially filed with the court.
Jesse Mata, whose cousin married Cook, saw Cook a few days ago and he appeared happy, he said. He told the Herald that Cook battled some mental health issues and was prescribed medication.
Mata says he knew Cook to be a good person and “exactly opposite of what everybody is making him out to be.”
“He was a happy guy when he was taking his medications,” he said.