By Jennifer Sullivan and Jonathan Martin, The Seattle Times –
MONTESANO, Wash. — Grays Harbor County sheriff’s deputies are searching for a man who stabbed Superior Court Judge Dave Edwards and shot a sheriff’s deputy at the county courthouse in Montesano, Wash., Friday afternoon.
“I have an officer who was shot and a Superior Court judge who was stabbed at noon,” Grays Harbor County Undersheriff Rick Scott told The Seattle Times.
Grays Harbor Community Hospital said that both Edwards and the deputy were in satisfactory condition.
Scott said deputies are searching several neighborhoods for the suspect. He said it’s unclear why the man was in the courthouse.
“We don’t know why he was here. It doesn’t appear he was here on any official business,” Scott said.
The possible suspect is Michael Thomas, said State Patrol Trooper Russ Winger. The trooper provided no age or address for Thomas, but described him as a white male with short sandy-colored hair, wearing a blue button-down shirt, black pants and possibly carrying a black briefcase and a handgun.
Police surrounded a home about a half-mile from the home, with a SWAT team on standby, according to police dispatch.
A woman who answered the phone at the Montesano Fire Department tearfully said that two people were transported to a hospital. She said medics were dispatched to the courthouse at 12:10 p.m.
“You have to call the police department,” the unidentified woman said.
The Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s Office and Montesano police confirmed there was an incident at the courthouse, but declined to provide details.
Edwards, of Aberdeen, Wash., began serving on the Grays Harbor County Superior Court bench in 2008.
Schools in the area have been placed under lockdown, and the county commissioner’s office also has been locked down.
Police gave authority for school officials to have parents of students at one school, Beacon Avenue Elementary, about a mile from the courthouse, pick up their children.
Montesano is about 90 miles southwest of Seattle.
Retired Grays Harbor County Superior Court Judge David Foscue said there is no real security at the courthouse. There aren’t metal detectors at the entrances, and judges’ chambers are accessible by the public. Often, there is no security presence in the courtroom, he said.
“We know there’s a problem; we’ve been concerned about it. It’s a very expensive matter to secure a courthouse,” said Foscue, who was last at the courthouse about a week ago.
Foscue said security is brought in if judges call the sheriff’s office for help.
“It didn’t worry me personally, but I worried for the public. They were the most vulnerable ones,” Foscue said. “There was no ongoing security.”
Foscue said he has known Edwards for decades. Edwards was appointed by Gov. Chris Gregoire after Foscue retired in 2007.
“He’s a hardworking judge. I was involved in bringing him to Grays Harbor County in the first place back in the 70s,” Foscue said.
Foscue said Edwards attended the University of Illinois, then graduated from law school at Gonzaga University. Foscue, who in the 1970s was the chief deputy prosecutor in Grays Harbor County, hired Edwards for the office.
Edwards served in the Grays Harbor Prosecuting Attorney’s Office from 1974 to 1978, where he was the chief criminal deputy prosecutor for two years.
“I didn’t see him sit as a judge. He was a very fair, very sharp,” Foscue said. “He grasped the essentials of things.”