Updated: Waitsburg man suspected of shooting officer kills self

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WALLA WALLA — A 30-year-old Waitsburg man died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head Monday after Oregon police say he shot a Rainier officer in the hand during a traffic stop.

Oregon State Patrol on Tuesday said Christopher E. Elliott was driving a red Kia sedan on Highway 30 when Rainier police Officer Russ George pulled him over after receiving complaints of aggressive driving.

Elliott shot George in the hand as the officer approached the Kia at about 12:30 p.m., then fled the area, according to an OSP news release. Police found the Kia at about 5 p.m. on a dirt road about 18 miles away near Clatskanie, Ore. Elliott’s body was found a quarter-mile away in tall grass, with a handgun nearby.

The Walla Walla County Sheriff’s Office contacted Elliott’s mother, Ruthy Elliott, to whom the Kia was registered.

Chief Deputy John King said she was devastated and had no idea why her son, who lived with her in Waitsburg, was traveling in western Oregon.

“The Christopher that was in Oregon yesterday is the total opposite of the way Christopher lived his life for 30 years,” Ruthy Elliott was quoted in a statement prepared for news media.

Police said there were no warrants for Christopher Elliott’s arrests and no confirmed motive for the shooting.

Ruthy Elliott did tell the Walla Walla County deputies that her family has been undergoing a lot of stress recently, according to a Sheriff’s Office report.

King confirmed that Athena Bentley, the 15-year-old girl who died in a single-vehicle crash on May 25 that also killed two other Walla Walla High School students, was Ruthy Elliott’s granddaughter and Christopher Elliott’s niece.

Rainier is a city of 1,900 residents northwest of Portland. Three years ago, Police Chief Ralph Painter was fatally shot after responding to a report of a suspicious person at a car stereo shop, according to The Associated Press. Daniel Butts is awaiting trial in that death.

In Monday’s shooting, the bullet that struck George’s hand was stopped by a bulletproof vest the officer was wearing. He was taken to a Hospital in Longview, Wash., by a reserve officer traveling with him. He was then transported to Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in Portland, where he was reported in fair condition Tuesday.

Luke Hegdal can be reached at lukehegdal@wwub.com or 526-8326.

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