Kalama, WA – Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Deputy Justin DeRosier was murdered in the line of duty on Saturday night, when a gunman opened fire on him as he was investigating a disabled vehicle that was blocking a roadway.
Deputy DeRosier, 29, responded to a report of a disabled motorhome that was blocking a section of Fallert Road at approximately 10:11 p.m., The Daily News reported.
He came under fire shortly after he arrived at the scene.
“Over the radio, he announced that he was being shot at and [had] been hit,” Cowlitz County Sheriff Brad Thurman said, according to KIRO.
The suspect fled the scene prior to backup officers’ arrival.
Deputy DeRosier was flown to PeaceHealth Medical Center in Vancouver, where he was rushed into surgery.
He passed away during the medical procedure, before his parents and his wife, Katie, were able to get to the hospital.
Deputy DeRosier also leaves behind his five-month-old daughter, Lily, The Daily News reported.
“It is devastating for all of us,” Sheriff Thurman said on Sunday morning.
Police ultimately located and apprehended two men suspected of rendering criminal assistance to the gunman, Sheriff Thurman said.
They have been identified as brothers Michael and Matthew Veatch.
At approximately 7 p.m., the Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) received a report of a suspicious individual in the area of Spencer Creek Road, KING reported.
A gunfight erupted when police arrived at the scene, and the unnamed male suspect was fatally wounded.
No officers were injured during the encounter, which brought an end to the 22-hour manhunt for Deputy DeRosier’s killer.
“It’s a big relief to all of us in law enforcement, as well as the community,” Cowlitz County Undersheriff Darren Ullmann said. “The community is no longer in danger.”
Deputy DeRosier’s murder was the first line-of-duty in the history of the CCSO.
His law enforcement career began in 2013, when he was hired by the Whitman County Sheriff’s Office, The Seattle Times reported.
He joined the CCSO in 2016, where he served as a boat operator and patrol officer, according to the Daily News.
Deputy DeRosier was training for a new assignment as a narcotics officer with the agency’s Drug Task Force at the time of his murder, Sheriff Thurman said.
He was also one of many officers who came to the aid of the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department (PCSD) in January, after Pierce County Sheriff’s Deputy Daniel McCartney was murdered in the line of duty.
Deputy DeRosier and Deputy Justin Taylor worked shifts for PCSD to help cover the jurisdiction in the wake of Deputy McCartney’s death.
Deputy DeRosier’s family has resided in the Cowlitz County area for multiple generations, the sheriff’s office said.
“Most of us have known him most of his life,” Undersheriff Ullmann noted. “There were few cops who want to be a cop more than Justin did. He loved his job. He was incredibly good at it.”
He had a promising career as a law enforcement officer, the undersheriff said.
“I had a lot of hope and plans for Justin. I saw him working his way up in this department very rapidly,” he explained. “He had a presence that couldn’t be overlooked. He will be with us forever. And he will be truly missed.”
As many as 300 people gathered at Martin Dock on Lake Sacajawea to hold a memorial vigil for the slain deputy – a show of support that was initiated by a 9-year-old boy.
“He said, ‘Mom, we have to do something,’” Katie Fowler said of her son Chase’s idea. “There are bad people out there. This just shows that we won’t back down. Our community is strong.”
Deputy DeRosier’s uncle, Layne DeRosier, said that his nephew had dreamed of being a law enforcement officer since he was a young boy.
“He was a true hero, but he wouldn’t want anyone to call him that,” Layne said. “[To him], it was his job…Heaven is a much safer place with him in it.”
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Deputy Justin DeRosier, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.
Deputy Justin DeRosier, your life mattered.