Oregon town getting back to normal after manhunt
Sunday, January 30, 2011
WALDPORT, Ore. (AP) — This enclave for retirees and vacationers on Oregon’s coast is trying to return to normal following last week’s surge of law officers searching for a man accused of shooting a police officer.
For four days, tiny Waldport swarmed with dozens of police as three SWAT teams combed for clues about the whereabouts of 43-year-old David Anthony Durham of Portland.
But the mystery of what happened to the suspect still lingered Saturday: Could he be hunkered down in the area or did he escape days ago? Police hope fresh clues will come from television’s “America’s Most Wanted,” which mentioned the case Saturday night.
Lincoln City Police Lt. Jerry Palmer said officers fielded two tips following the program. But he said neither appeared likely to lead to Durham, and he urged people to be vigilant and report suspicious activity.
“We’re waiting for this guy to show is face where we can get our eyes on him,” Palmer said.
In Waldport, everyone has their theory about what happened to the suspect, identified by police as 43-year-old David Anthony Durham of Portland. Maybe he slipped under the bridge and hiked up the Alsea River. Perhaps he walked up the beach and escaped behind officers searching for him. He could’ve tried to swim across the frigid water of Alsea Bay. Or maybe he’s lying low in a well-stocked vacation home that was abandoned for the brutal coastal winter.
“If you watch ’Man vs. Wild,’ they’re pretty rugged and they know when to move, can live off pretty much anything,” said Denise Renner, 56, referring to a television show featuring survival skills in extreme conditions. “I think that’s the model he’s following.”
A day earlier, authorities scaled back their search for Durham, leaving behind only enhanced patrols. SWAT teams, called in from out of town, have gone home.
“We want the citizens to return to their normal activities and get back to some normalcy,” said Lt. Curtis Landers of the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office.
Residents out and about Saturday said that’s exactly what they’re trying to do. They aren’t scared, they said, because the shooter is probably long gone, and you can’t live in fear forever.
“After about the first day, I was pretty confident he had high-tailed it out of here,” said Paul Williams, 42, an electrical and software engineer who was teaching his son to check the fluids on a car and change the oil on a motorcycle.
The search focused on the Bayshore neighborhood, tucked onto a small spit that juts into Alsea Bay, from where authorities say the shooter fired on a crab fisherman Monday. The fisherman wasn’t seriously injured. On the neighborhood’s southern tip, streets, homes and driveways are coated in so much light, powdery sand that it has to be plowed like snow.
Al Gerhardstein, a 60-year-old self-employed artist, said he is taking a few extra precautions. He’s locking the doors more often, and leaving the outdoor lights on. Typically he’ll pick up hitchhikers, but not now.
“They’ll catch him, or he’ll get worn out knowing he can’t live his life just running all the time,” said Gerhardstein, who moved in November from Tucson, Ariz., to this neighborhood 150 miles southwest of Portland.
Police had been hunting for Durham since Sunday night, when a Lincoln City officer was shot during a traffic stop. Police chased Durham’s vehicle down U.S. 101, and forced it to stop in Waldport with a spike strip. The driver fled on foot.
Family members describe Durham as an avid outdoorsman who designs his own camouflage clothing. They said he became delusional after taking pain medication for an injured shoulder.
Officer Steven Dodds, 45, remained in a Portland hospital recovering from gunshot wounds to his pelvis and abdomen. Doctors say he would have died from the injuries if he hadn’t been rushed to the hospital for surgery after managing to call in the shooting to dispatchers.
Neighbor Sharon Richardson heard the shooting and told “The Oregonian” newspaper from Portland that Dodds was lucky he pulled over the shooter where he did.
“We’re glad it happened here and not down the street where the officer would have been on the road by himself and might not have made it,” she told the newspaper.
A warrant charges Durham with attempted aggravated murder.
“Normally this neighborhood is nice, quiet, beachy,” Williams said. “It’s an excellent neighborhood. To have something like this happen just reminds us that there’s another world out there.”
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