Police investigate the scene of a shooting in downtown Ontario on Idaho Avenue on Thursday, March 14. (The Enterprise/Kristine de Leon)
ONTARIO – An Ontario man who led police on a pursuit from Nampa into Ontario Thursday afternoon died after a shooting on East Idaho Avenue, according to Malheur County District Attorney David Goldthorpe.
The driver was identified as Victor J. Morales Zavala, 25. The shooting involved two Oregon State Police troopers, according to Goldthorpe.
According to Malheur County Sheriff Brian Wolfe, a motorist called police at 4:05 p.m. to report an erratic driver on Interstate 84 traveling at high speeds. Six minutes later, the Idaho State Police attempted to stop the east-bound vehicle near Nampa. At some point, the pursued pickup truck started heading west on Interstate 84 under circumstances not clear Thursday night.
Idaho troopers broke off their pursuit because of rush hour traffic, but the vehicle was subsequently spotted by deputies from the Canyon County Sheriff’s Office.
As other Idaho law enforcement joined the chase, Ontario police deployed a spike strip at the Oregon-Idaho border to stop the vehicle, according to Goldthorpe.
“The subject continued to drive on four blown tires, but he could no longer drive at a high rate of speed,” Goldthorpe said in a news release.
Suzy Bennett of Ontario said she was returning from Idaho with her mother when she was forced to pull off Idaho Avenue at the Far East restaurant.
"I see the yellow truck going by and all the tires are puncture and so he's going maybe 20 mph," she said in a message to the Enterprise. "I watch him drive through the light and was forced to stop right before going under the bridge."
VIDEO: Police pursuit in Ontario
Wolfe said the pickup continued on to Ontario, pursued now by Idaho and Oregon state police and the Ontario Police Department and exiting at the main Ontario exit.
The driver stopped on East Idaho Avenue just west of the railroad overpass and stepped out of the pickup. He was alone in the truck.
“The investigation thus far shows that the subject had a firearm, which at some point he held to his head,” Goldthorpe said. “Two Oregon State troopers were the closest vehicles to the suspect and at approximately 4:51 p.m. shots were fired.”
He said Morales Zavala, was taken to Saint Alphonsus Medical Center in Ontario at 5:11 p.m. and was “pronounced dead at the hospital a short time later.”
Idaho Avenue remained closed until just before 10 p.m.
Goldthorpe said the sheriff’s office is leading the investigation.
Reporter Pat Caldwell: firstname.lastname@example.org; Reporter Kristine de Leon: email@example.com.
TRY A FREE SAMPLE – You can see for yourself the kind of local news reporting produced by the Malheur Enterprise with a news team focused exclusively on news that's important to you. You can read us for free for 30 days. Signing up is easy and then you have 24/7 access to our reports. Sign up HERE. Or you can support some of the nation's best journalism by subscribing to our digital news service for $5 a month, easy and automatic. Subscribe HERE.