Police say Robert E. Breck shot three people in the lobby of the building before hiding out in his apartment for over two hours
VANCOUVER — An 80-year old who lives at downtown Vancouver’s Smith Tower faces a first-degree murder charge, and two counts of first-degree attempted murder after opening fire in the lobby of the senior living apartment building on Thursday afternoon.
Robert E. Breck was arrested after a standoff that lasted more than two hours. Police say Breck shot three people in the lobby of the building shortly after 2 p.m., then went into his apartment and refused to come out. Crisis negotiators eventually convinced Breck to give himself up.
Two of the victims were transported to PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center where they were said to be in satisfactory condition. The third person was pronounced dead at the scene. The identities of the victims had not been released on Thursday evening.
Heather Hale, whose mother lives inside the building, told FOX 12 news that Breck had been threatening violence on Wednesday.
“She just heard his name and heard that he was talking about shooting people yesterday,” said Hale. “And I guess he went through with it today.”
Vancouver Police spokeswoman Kim Kapp said Breck’s motive for the shooting wasn’t immediately clear. The Major Crimes Team, which is comprised of officers from several Clark County law enforcement organizations, will be handling the investigation. The FBI and Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) agents also responded to the scene, along with officers from Portland Police.
“This is a situation where this is a retirement community, so we have elderly residents as well as an elevator situation,” said Kapp. “We brought negotiators in immediately to make contact with the suspect, which was extremely helpful to be able to maintain that line of communication and get a peaceful resolution to this situation.”
Members of the regional SWAT group, as well as Vancouver Fire, helped to evacuate people inside the building, bringing them to City Hall nearby, which was placed into lockdown during the standoff, where they could reconnect with loved ones. Residents were allowed to return to their homes about five hours after the shootings happened.
Kapp said Breck did emerge from his apartment once, but refused orders to give himself up and went back inside. Eventually, negotiators were able to talk him into giving himself up and he was transported to the Clark County Jail.
Vancouver Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle released a statement shortly after the shooting.
“…our hearts go out to the victims and their families as they deal with this tragedy,” read the statement in part. “I commend our police officers, fire and EMS personnel who quickly responded to the scene.”
Smith Tower at 515 Washington Street is a 170-unit senior living apartment building operated by Mid-Columbia Manor, Inc., a nonprofit run by a group of area labor unions.