Fatal shooting may have been first ever for Grants Pass police

Authorities Tuesday identified a man who was killed in a standoff with Grants Pass police as 29-year-old Daniel Diaz.

The fatal shooting Sunday night on Northwest Blossom Drive was the first in the line of duty involving the Department of Public Safety in living memory, perhaps ever.

At a news conference on Monday, interim Police Chief Bill Landis said officers responded to Blossom Drive after receiving a report Sunday at 9:38 p.m. of a man "going crazy." A resident told dispatchers that Diaz was yelling at her and her husband, and police were informed he had fired one shot outside the home. They then learned he had also fired several shots inside the house, Landis said.

The SWAT team was called in at 10:22 p.m. At 11:10 p.m., officers heard additional shots fired, Landis said. A couple of minutes after that, they briefly made phone contact with Diaz before he hung up on them. At 11:28 p.m., after Diaz fired more shots, officers returned fire when they spotted him outside the residence, according to the chief. Diaz ducked back inside, and at 11:34 p.m., more shots were fired inside the home. Officers fired as well, and believed they may have hit him, Landis said. They found Diaz dead in a bedroom, he said.

Landis said three officers fired their weapons during the incident and have been placed on paid administrative leave. An autopsy will confirm whether it was officer gunfire that killed Diaz or the fatal wound was self-inflicted.

No officers suffered serious injuries, but one had minor wounds from climbing over a fence.

The incident will be investigated by Oregon State Police and the Josephine County District Attorney's Office.

The residence on Blossom Drive had been the scene of at least two incidents in recent months involving Diaz.

According to Daily Courier records, in June police arrested Diaz after he allegedly struck a woman's car with a baseball bat. Last month he was arrested again in connection with reports of an aggressive pit bull chasing children in the 100 block of Northwest Blossom Drive. At that time, Diaz was wanted in Douglas County for failing to appear in court in a drug case.

Several residents of Northwest Blossom Drive said the police activity Sunday night continued for several hours after midnight.

Tyler Tappan moved into the neighborhood several days ago with his fiancée. When he came home from work, he was unable to get to his house because of a police barricade. His fiancée was at home alone, and he spoke with her by phone throughout the incident. "I told her to stay inside," he said.

Tappan waited behind the police line until about 3 a.m. Monday, when he finally walked to an adjacent street and climbed over a back fence to reach his house.

His fiancée, Brittney Saunders, said she spent the night locked in a room, listening to gunfire and other sounds.

"I was nearly having a panic attack the entire time … I just wanted to leave. I'm five months pregnant and already hormonal," Saunders said.

She said she could hear police giving the man instructions over a loudspeaker.

"They were telling him to come out and (that) they were not leaving," she said.

The shooting was an extremely rare event for Grants Pass police, who have been shot at several times over the years but rarely return fire.

In 2011, an officer fired three shots at a suspect during a felony arrest raid on Southeast Fern Street. No one was injured and the officer was later cleared of any wrongdoing.

In 1986, an officer returned fire after he was shot moments after arriving at a domestic disturbance outside the Eagles club at Seventh and J streets.

Officer Don Grow was responding to reports of an argument between a man and a woman when the man took out a pistol and shot his wife in the head, then shot Grow in the abdomen.

Grow returned fire but missed. The man, Mack H. Thorn, was captured without injury and convicted of murder. Grow returned to work six weeks later.

Reach reporter Melissa McRobbie at 541-474-3806 or mmcrobbie@thedailycourier.com.

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