By Elaine Porterfield and Eric M. Johnson
SEATTLE (Reuters) - A gunman suspected of slaying his girlfriend in a Seattle-area apartment they shared before killing a neighbor and two other men was himself shot to death by police officers called to the scene, authorities said on Monday.
The deadly burst of gun violence unfolded Sunday night at the Pinewood Village Apartments in the small Puget Sound city of Federal Way, about 20 miles south of Seattle, but investigators have yet to determine what sparked the slayings, Police Chief Brian Wilson said.
Police responding to 911 emergency calls reporting gunshots at the garden-apartment complex confronted the 28-year-old suspect as he was emerging from an exterior stairwell, armed with a pistol-grip shotgun, and they ordered him to halt, Wilson told a news conference.
When he refused, the officers opened fire, and the gunman stumbled to the ground wounded but got back up, ran 60 feet to an adjacent parking lot and collapsed there. Police shot him again when he reached for a semi-automatic pistol that spilled to the ground near him.
At that point, two other men, ages 46 and 24, were found shot to death nearby, and a 62-year-old man was subsequently found fatally shot in his apartment. The suspect's 25-year-old girlfriend was discovered dead from a gunshot wound to the head in the couple's apartment.
Investigators determined that the gunman shot his girlfriend first, then left carrying a large gym bag and other belongings and encountered two men outside the building. Witnesses told police they heard yelling and arguing, and then saw the suspect shoot both men - one at point-blank range, the other in the back as he fled, according to Wilson.
The police chief said those two men were found dead in the parking lot. Their relationship, if any, to the suspect and his girlfriend, was not immediately clear.
Meanwhile, a resident who heard gunshots and commotion emerged from his unit to urge another neighbor to call police, then retreated back inside, only for the suspect to blast the door open with his shotgun and kill the 62-year-old man in his home, Wilson said.
The chief said the slaying marked the worst instance of violence in recent memory for Federal Way, a former logging settlement whose name derives from the federal highway, now designated state route 99, that runs through town.
By comparison, Wilson said, there were just three homicides reported for all of last year in Federal Way, which is home to the Weyerhaeuser timber company.
The names of the suspect and the victims were being withheld until family members were notified.
Eight Federal Way police officers who fired their weapons during the incident have been placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation by outside agencies, police spokeswoman Cathy Schrock said, adding that was standard policy. None was injured.
(Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Andrew Hay)