Man taken into custody after morning standoff at apartment
By KAITLIN STROHSCHEIN
Port Orchard Independent Reporter
September 28, 2011 · Updated 9:49 AM
Kitsap County Sheriff’s deputies safely arrested a man who opened fire at the Viewmont East apartment complex early Monday, resolving a four-hour standoff after the man barricaded himself in his apartment.
“When he came out, it was without injury,” Deputy Ken Dickenson said.
Neither the suspect nor the law enforcement officers were injured.
The incident began as a welfare check on 47-year-old Lester Bradley Steele, who reportedly told a relative that he had killed his wife and daughter and planned to commit suicide, according to the sheriff’s office.
Two deputies arrived at the scene on Karcher Road at 6:22 a.m., before sunrise.
Deputies evacuated residents in the apartment units next to Steele’s, and took “strategic positions” around the apartment to try to gather information.
Once the residents had been evacuated, a deputy knocked on the outside of Steele’s apartment, near what he believed to be a bedroom.
Another deputy said that he could hear someone talking inside the apartment.
The deputy who initially knocked on the wall tried to start a conversation with the man inside.
The deputy walked toward the back of the building and knocked on a window at the rear of the apartment, to announce that sheriff’s deputies were there.
The suspect continued mumbling, and the deputy told the suspect to come to the back door so they could talk.
As soon as the deputy finished the request, the suspect allegedly fired a shotgun at the back door.
The deputy heard a loud boom from what sounded like a shotgun, and the glass simultaneously blew out.
“Help me!” Steele yelled, and then cursed at the deputies and told them to leave, they reported.
Deputies had spent 45 minutes trying to talk with Steele, but after the gunshot, they stopped.
They secured the scene until crisis negotiators and members of the sheriff’s SWAT team arrived, according to a news release from the sheriff’s office.
Negotiators spoke with Steele for 2-1/2 hours before he agreed to be arrested peacefully.
Steele was booked into jail for second-degree assault and his bail was initially set at $100,000.
At a hearing Tuesday in Kitsap County District Court, Judge Jeffrey J. Jahns granted prosecutors' request to raise Steele's bail to $500,000, despite a request from his attorney to set bail at $20,000.
“The court can’t ignore the seriousness of the accusations,” Jahns said.
The judge also heard from Connie Steele, the suspect's wife.
“He’s been under a lot of stress because we’ve been fighting lately,” she said. “Normally, he wouldn’t do something like this.”
Neighbors who stood outside in the rain Monday morning during the standoff told a different story.
One said that Steele has been involved in verbal disputes with other residents and that he threatened to shoot her and her daughter during an argument a couple weeks ago.
Steele did not display a weapon at the time, the neighbor said.
Residents also said he has often been seen intoxicated around the complex, although deputies initially didn’t know if drugs or alcohol were a factor in the standoff, Dickenson said.
Editor Tim Kelly contributed to this report.
A SWAT team provided backup for crisis negotiators.
Two shots were fired shortly after deputies arrived at the scene. One shattered a sliding glass door in the back of the apartment.