Police Mystery: Bradden W. Ferber, Olympia Attorney, Shoots Self Just As Cop Shoots Him

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The reported killing of a suspected drunk-driving attorney by an Olympia police officer was bungled from the beginning and, though police officials in the capital are now insisting the shooting was justified, the death of Bradden W. Ferber, 53, continues to be surrounded by some mystery and quite a few unanswered questions.

In its initial news release, as reported Friday by The Olympian shortly after the 5:45 p.m. shooting in the Creekwood Court Southeast area between Olympia and Lacey, the department said a driver had been involved in a crash with another vehicle and had fled.

Officers followed him, and when they reached him, he threatened an officer. The officer shot the man in the head.

That blossomed into TV and wire-service reports, such as this one at pi.com, that most people heard or saw over the weekend:

Officers arrived on scene a few minutes later and immediately began tracking the man. They caught up with him a short time later, at which point police say the man threatened an officer. The officer, who's a 25-year-veteran of the force, shot the man in the head, killing him. Police have not said if the man was armed or how he threatened the officer.

On Monday, it became a different story. The Associated Press reported that autopsy results on the suspect, now identified as Ferber, an "unemployed attorney," committed suicide by a self-inflicted gunshot to the head.

The [coroner's] report also says he suffered a large caliber gunshot wound to his stomach, but that it did not cause his death.

The Olympian added further details on Monday: Officer Mike Hovda shot Ferber after the subject raised his handgun, "presenting a threat" to the officer.

But it remained unclear, the paper noted, whether the shot fired by Hovda caused Ferber's death.

Police Chief Ronnie Roberts said it was "his understanding," the paper said, that two shots were fired, and that Hovda fired only a single shot.

It's three days later, and the story is still evolving from cop shoots drunk driver to driver shoots self, although where - stomach or head - remains uncertain.

The next day - yesterday - The Olympian reported what now stands as the up-to-date full story:

A local man shot himself in the head almost simultaneously as an Olympia police officer shot him in the abdomen after a suspected DUI crash on Creekwood Court SE after 5:45 p.m. Friday, according to Olympia Police Chief Ronnie Roberts.

Yet Roberts, according to the news report, did not seem ready to own the story that his department was putting out.

Chief Roberts said that based on the information he has received regarding Friday's shooting, Hovda was justified in using deadly force as Ferber raised a handgun while walking towards Hovda, presenting a threat. [Emphasis added]

The report includes no further explicit details about that most important fatal moment, however: Ferber clearly had to be raising (or had raised) his gun, but he had to have already put it to his head to shoot himself. He could not be pointing it at the officer when he shot himself and was, at the same moment, shot in the abdomen by Hovda.

If the officer shot a man who was shooting himself at the same split second, how exactly did that come about? What was the officer saying, if anything, to Ferber? And could he see he was not in the line of fire since Ferber's gun was pointed at himself?

Anyone who pulls a gun on an officer risks being shot. But by now Olympia police should have been able to provide more detail to prove the shooting was justified. The case is now being investigated by outside agencies, headed by a Tumwater Police crew. Presumably, someone will eventually have the answers.

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