By Rikki King Herald Writer
ARLINGTON — The man was lying on his stomach in the grass under a fir tree. He cradled a .22-caliber Ruger semi-automatic rifle equipped with a scope, boxes of ammunition at his side.
The day of the shootout on Jim Creek Road was sunny and warm.
The road meets Highway 530, northeast of Arlington, and runs nearly nine miles southeast to Jim Creek Naval Radio Station.
It’s the kind of place where people live when they want land more than they want neighbors. Dogs roam. Horses graze.
In early 2012, Robert Endrizzi joined them, moving into a blue rambler on eight acres. On the Sunday of Labor Day weekend, he began shooting at his new neighbors from a sniper nest he’d fashioned in his yard.
It was high ground, where he could see passing cars and watch the massive police response. It took officers hours to find him in the brush. When they did, they had no choice but to shoot him to death.
Nearly two years later, there are few answers about what prompted the 60-year-old Army veteran with mental health problems to do what he did that day.
Last fall, a 750-page police investigation became public record.
The report takes a carefully detailed look at the crime. It counts bullets. It measures distances. It shares what witnesses saw and heard, and what books were at Endrizzi’s bedside.
For all its work, the report doesn’t say why a man’s life unraveled, or why he kept pulling the trigger as police bullets drew closer and closer to his hiding place.
Robert Endrizzi moved to Jim Creek Road that January. He wanted to be closer to his parents in Mount Vernon. He’d lived in Kent until he and his wife, Renee, separated in 2011. Renee Endrizzi, who had a history of heart problems, died in May 2012. She was 59.
For decades, Endrizzi had wrestled with depression and substance abuse. At one point, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
Endrizzi’s adult son told deputies he believed his father likely started shooting to draw police. His father had attempted suicide before.
The first 911 call came about 1:30 p.m.
A man said he was shot in the leg as he walked down his driveway to see what was happening after he heard gunfire in his neighborhood along Jim Creek Road.
He believed the shooter was aiming at him, and not accidentally.
Snohomish County sheriff’s Sgt. Rob Martin was the first police officer on scene, arriving in 11 minutes, followed by three other deputies.
They knew they had to rescue the man who’d been shot. They strapped old bulletproof vests to their patrol cars for extra shielding.
“We don’t know what anything looks like, and we have to go in there,” he said.
They took the victim and his family, including two small children, and drove them out of harm’s way.
Roy and Sandy Anderberg attended Sunday morning services at the First Baptist Church of Arlington. They stopped at home to get a potluck dish for that afternoon’s church picnic.
The Anderbergs live on Ebey Mountain Road, a private gravel drive that meets Jim Creek Road across from the Endrizzi house.
In the winter, the couple welcome visitors with hot cider and ginger snaps.
He’s 74, she’s 72 and this month they’ll have been married 53 years. They managed rental properties in Marysville before they retired and made their home in the house they built in the forest.
Every Labor Day weekend, their church hosts a picnic and campout at the Jim Creek Naval Radio Station for everyone who served in the military. Roy Anderberg was an airman first class in the Air Force, decades ago.
Their youngest grandson was supposed to be with them that day, but those plans switched at the last minute. It was a good thing, too, they said, because he would have been sitting in the backseat of their car when the bullet hurtled through.
They were turning onto Jim Creek Road when they heard a thud through their open windows.
“Roy thought he had hit something, like a big rock or a stick in the road,” Sandy Anderberg said.
He got out to check. There was another thud. He jumped back in and started driving.
Sandy Anderberg turned her head and “that’s when I saw the hole in the window,” she said.
A bullet had shattered the back window on the driver’s side. Two more bullets lodged in the driver’s door.
They drove down the road and stopped to look at the damage. Sandy thought maybe a kid had been throwing rocks.
But Roy Anderberg knew what rifle fire sounded like.
It sounded like that.
They found the bullet that went through the window lying on their dashboard.
“We didn’t even realize it was there at first,” she said.
“Until after,” he said.
Cellphones don’t always work in the woods, and the couple doesn’t own one, anyway.
When they got to the Naval Station, Roy Anderberg asked a guard if he could use his phone.
The guard asked why.
Roy Anderberg told them: “Because someone’s been shooting at me, and I got five bullet holes in the car.”
The Anderbergs often hear target practice in the forest near their home. It never bothered them. It still doesn’t.
It takes more than gunfire to shake up Roy Anderberg.
“We are Christians and we believe that Jesus Christ was protecting us,” he said. “It wasn’t our time yet.”
The Anderbergs were shot at while Martin and the deputies were rescuing the family. Because the Anderbergs’ Subaru was hit on both sides as it turned onto Jim Creek Road, police first thought there might be more than one shooter. It would be morning before they knew for sure.
News of a second shooting prompted Martin to call in the SWAT team, where he’s a team leader. The 15-year veteran of the force also served in the Marine Corps.
At the time, Martin was the north patrol supervisor on duty, assigned to the precinct at Smokey Point. He’d driven along Jim Creek Road before but had never before patrolled there as a beat cop. One the reasons he likes his job is he gets to know all the different parts of the county.
When he started his shift that day at 6 a.m., he’d never been shot at. That would change by the time he got off work at midnight.
It was now about 2 p.m.
For 30 or 40 minutes, it was quiet. Then a white Datsun pickup came down Ebey Mountain Road and right into the path of the standoff. Again, shots from the sniper rang out. The Datsun was hit, but not the driver.
There was a problem with closing the whole road. Although the main county road from Arlington was closed moments after police arrived, Jim Creek Road is fed by private roads and long country driveways.
It was impossible to keep everyone out.
Shortly after 3 p.m., Endrizzi started taking shots at the deputies, who heard rounds ripping through the trees. Some took cover by crouching in a ditch only seven inches deep.
The SWAT team in a Lenco Bearcat armored personnel carrier headed up the gravel road.
Almost immediately, bullets began pinging against it. They were an obvious target. They heard rounds zipping past, but other than that and the rumble of the engine, they couldn’t hear much else.
When they turned off the engine, the inside temperature climbed.
“It was an oven,” Martin said.
The Bearcat has windows and portholes but limited angles of vision. The deputies had to climb out to get a better view. They took cover, huddling behind rotten stumps and small trees. They didn’t know where the shooter was hiding. They still didn’t know he was alone.
The SWAT team needed to provide cover for the other deputies who were being shot at.
One sergeant, a trained marksman, ran alone across Jim Creek Road to flank the shooter. More gunshots rang out.
The deputies used artificial smoke to mask their movements while making announcements over a loudspeaker urging the gunman to surrender.
Forty-five minutes passed. Cellphone service was spotty, the police radio traffic fuzzy. Bullets struck more passing vehicles. The sheriff’s office used automated voicemails to warn neighbors to stay inside.
At the same time, records show that 911 dispatchers were flooded with complaints about the road closures and heavy police presence. People wanted to get home. Their dogs needed to be let out.
At one point, a man called 911. He was using oxygen and the tank was running low. Medics went to help.
Deputies also were sent to another house to turn off an oven someone had left on.
Another police marksman arrived on scene. The SWAT team regrouped.
They had to find the shooter.
“I like to think we were all calm and collected throughout this whole ordeal, running through options and plans and talking and trying to come up with a good resolution,” Martin said.
The gunshots were echoing in the valley. Rounds were hitting trees, metal.
“It was very real for all of us out there for a while,” Martin said.
Then they found him.
Deputies later said it was their military and police training that taught them how to spot a sniper. They recognized the silhouette, prone behind a rifle, repeatedly pulling the trigger.
Scanning the brush, they spotted Endrizzi in a clump of trees near his driveway. He was “on glass” — using a scope, searching for targets.
In one report, a deputy who was in the Bearcat wrote, “I could feel what was either bullet fragments or paint chipping off the Bearcat impacting my back.”
Two deputies returned fire. Investigators estimated that police fired more than 50 bullets that day.
Their final shots rang out at 4:29 p.m. — nearly three hours after the first 911 call. A second SWAT team moved into position and searched Endrizzi’s house.
Trackers combed the woods. Helicopter crews scanned from above. They could finally say Endrizzi acted alone.
The hill fell silent.
An autopsy showed Endrizzi died from 18 gunshot wounds. There was no alcohol or illegal drugs in his system. He was lean: 5-foot-10, 148 pounds. He’d lost significant weight, down from the 210 pounds listed on his driver’s license the year before.
Investigators found 55 spent .22-caliber shell casings on the mound where Endrizzi had been hunkered down.
Ammunition was cached around Endrizzi’s property. In his home, officers found more bullets, plus knives and machetes. They found medications for controlling his mental illness, seizures, insomnia and heart problems. They found marijuana and paraphernalia, and also coins used to mark sobriety milestones in recovery programs. What they didn’t find was an explanation.
Detectives went to Endrizzi’s parents’ house in Mount Vernon to tell them what had happened and to ask questions.
Friends and family told detectives that Endrizzi was different after his wife died. He told them about hallucinations he’d been having, and how he’d been trying to find a medication regimen that didn’t bring so many adverse side effects.
He also had financial problems, and had been through bankruptcy court. In court papers, he was described as depending on permanent disability payments to get by.
The documents don’t say what kind of disability, but friends told detectives that Endrizzi was discharged from the Army after a motorcycle accident.
Endrizzi’s son, parents and close friends did not respond to interview requests.
By the end of that day, both deputies who shot Endrizzi were placed on leave — standard practice when police use fatal force. They returned to work later that month.
It was determined the shooting was justified.
Police had no choice but to open fire on Endrizzi, Snohomish County Prosecutor Mark Roe wrote in an August 2013 report, after reviewing the investigation into the shooting.
“There were lots of calls and attempts to get him to put his gun down, but he was shooting,” Roe said. “I’m sure it was an incredibly frightening situation for everybody.”
Roe reviews all cases in the county when police take a life. In each case he tries to meet with the family of the deceased. The meetings are set up through the prosecutor’s victim advocate.
The Endrizzi family did not respond to Roe’s requests for a meeting.
His offer stands.
The Anderbergs made it to their church picnic.
Some folks at the campground had police-radio apps on their cellphones, and everyone listened along as things developed. When night fell, people passed out sleeping bags and blankets to those who couldn’t return home.
The Anderbergs were given an empty cabin. Roy Anderberg fell right asleep. They were awakened about 12:30 a.m. and told it was over, and they could go home.
The auto shop wanted $1,700 to fix the bullet holes and replace the window. For that price, Roy figured, the bullet holes could stay. He only had the window fixed.
Robert Endrizzi’s house was foreclosed in December 2013, according to paperwork filed in Snohomish County Superior Court.
Months before that, bank lawyers told the court they were unable to reach Endrizzi’s family to resolve ownership of the property and acreage.
In July, newspaper legal notices announced the house, which still sits empty, was going to auction.
The curtains hang at odd angles. The blinds are bent. The fir tree and the mound underneath are recognizable from the hand-drawn maps in the police reports, but the area’s since become overgrown with blackberry brambles.
In the front yard, a wooden trellis leans sideways, overgrown with vines, threatening to topple. The mailbox has been knocked crooked, too, and left that way. The lawn looks liked it’s been mowed, not so long ago.
Questions linger. There are no answers.
Just the quiet.
Rikki King: 425-339-3449; firstname.lastname@example.org.