MONTESANO, Wash. – A man suspected of shooting sheriff’s deputy with her own gun and stabbing a judge at the Grays Harbor County Courthouse Friday remains at large, law enforcement officers said at an afternoon press conference.
Late Friday night, investigators say they do have a person of interest in the attack. Details about that person have not yet been released and it's not known if that person is the same man identified as Michael Thomas. Thomas was identified as a suspect earlier in the day.
Less than three hours after the attack, which happened shortly after noon, KING 5 News was told Thomas had been taken into custody in nearby Tumwater. But even as that report came in, police from multiple agencies were surrounding a house in Montesano where the suspect was thought to be hiding.
The Montesano house was found to be empty, and Grays Harbor Undersheriff Rick Scott said the man detained in Tumwater may have nothing to do with Friday's attack.
[The Grays Harbor Sheriff's Dept. urged anyone with information about Friday's attack to call their tipline: 360.249.3911.]
The chain of events began at 12:10 p.m., when sheriff's deputy Polly Davin confronted a suspicious person in the courthouse building. The man -- who had given his name earlier as Michael Thomas and is described as a white male with brown hair -- attacked Davin with a sharp object.
"I was on the third floor and I saw on the first floor the deputy was being attacked," says Superior Court Judge Dave Edwards.
Edwards came to Davin's aid, pushing the attacker against a wall.
"When I went to assist the deputy, he had a weapon in his hand, a knife or something, and he was stabbing her," says Edwards. "And that's when I got stabbed."
When Davin attempted to draw her firearm, the attacker knocked her to the ground and took the weapon away from her, then shot her in the shoulder.
"He got the gun away from the deputy and went 'pop pop!'" says Edwards. "And [he] turned and looked at me then he went out the courthouse with the gun in his hand."
Davin and Edwards, who received wounds to his neck and right hand, were taken to Grays Harbor Community Hospital. Neither apparently sustained life-threatening injuries, as both were treated and released by late Friday afternoon.
The courthouse was cordoned off in the immediate aftermath of the attack. All Grays Harbor County schools and county offices were placed in lockdown and residents were told to stay indoors.
A nearby home was surrounded minutes later where it was believed the attacker was holed up. SWAT moved in, firing tear gas into the home, but nobody was inside.
The Michael Thomas police are looking for is white, between 5-feet 10-inches and 6-feet tall. He has a slender build, light brown hair and is clean shaven. He was wearing a blue dress shirt, black slacks and was carrying a black briefcase. He is believed to have Deputy Davin's .45-caliber firearm in his possession.
Scott said they are aware of no motive for the attack.
The shooting and manhunt put this close community of about 4,000 people on edge.
Kathie Wilson, who works at a law firm near the courthouse, said her office locked their doors after getting a call from her daughter-in-law, who was locked in a school while picking her child.
"Everybody in our area has called each other, locking down, we are all watching and waiting to see when everything is OK," Wilson said.
The attack comes a year after Edwards joined a lawsuit to protest planned state budget cuts he said were making courthouses dangerous. Edwards was also the chairman of a committee recently formed to improve security at the courthouse.
That committee's plan was complete, but implementation was on hold due to budget restrictions, according to the Associated Press and a report from the Daily World in Aberdeen. According to budget information from the county, the superior court budget was cut from $733,320 in 2010 to $645,818 for 2012.
The courthouse is not equipped with a metal detector and there was no on-site security on Friday, Scott said.
"Our courthouse is one of the few of its size that doesn't have full-time security," he said. "We just had a discussion about courthouse security less than a week ago. The need for that is certainly illustrated by situations like this."
"All of our judges in our county have been concerned for a long time about the lack of security in our courthouse," says Edwards. "You can't get less security than we have."
There have been a number of dangerous episodes inside the courthouse over the last two years, including a defendant charging at one judge in a courtroom and a man armed with knife asking directions to the office of a judge, the lawsuit filed in December said.
"Anyone can enter the courthouse carrying weapons," it said.
Reporting by KING 5's Gary Chittim and Drew Mikkelsen.