Officer testifies about the night he was shot by a gunman

EVERETT — James Maples thought of his wife and two kids.

He was lying on a Marysville street, next to the curb. He had a bullet in his leg and the gunman was moving closer.

“I could still feel rounds going past me, and I knew I had get out of there,” he testified Thursday. “What went through my mind was my wife and my two kids, and I said to myself, ‘I needed to protect my head if I was going to get out of there.’ ”

Maples was wounded the night of Oct. 15, 2014, when Hans Hansen, 44, allegedly shot up police stations and patrol cars in an attempt to commit “suicide by cop.”

Hansen’s trial is in its second week in Snohomish County Superior Court. He’s charged with 11 felonies, including two counts of attempted first-degree murder. The case is expected to go to jurors for deliberation on Monday.

Maples has been a police officer for more than 20 years and also served in the military. He made sergeant at the Marysville Police Department in 2013.

He was at the Marysville police station on Grove Street when word came over the radio, around 9:50 p.m., that the Lake Stevens and Granite Falls departments had been targeted with gunfire. He testified about asking every officer in the room to go look for the shooter.

In his patrol car, Maples headed from Grove Street southbound on 71st Avenue NE. On his radio, he heard officers James Tolbert and Bronwyn Kieland report they were behind the shooter’s truck, northbound on the same street. He told them to keep their distance until more help arrived. Maples was on a rolling hill when he saw the headlights.

On the stand Thursday, Maples fought back tears, repeatedly pausing to regain his composure. That night, he knew his two colleagues were behind the approaching truck.

Tolbert called “Shots fired!” over the radio. The truck had pulled over and the door opened. Maples heard the gunfire and saw in the muzzle flashes the silhouette of a man.

“I’m trying to grab at my rifle, and at the same time, contemplating gassing it and trying to run the individual over,” he said. The shooter got back in his truck, though. Maples couldn’t see or hear Tolbert and Kieland.

“I thought they were dead,” he said. The truck was coming at him, and his rifle was hung up on something in the car. He saw an object emerge from the truck driver’s window.

Maples’ plan was to reverse out of there, but he quickly realized he didn’t have enough time. He jerked the wheel so the passenger side of his car was facing the truck, putting a layer of sheet metal between him and the bullets. Rounds were striking the car. Later, detectives would count at least 18 bullet holes. They later determined that the holes were caused by at least 14 bullets.

“I could see and hear gunfire coming right at me,” Maples said. “I could feel glass shattering and hitting me. I could feel the energy of what I assumed to be a round going right behind my back.”

His rifle finally came loose and he crouched behind his car, taking aim.

“Everything closed in, and (the shooter) never stopped firing rounds,” he said.

But behind the gunman were houses. Maples didn’t feel that it was safe for him to return fire without endangering others, he said. The truck rolled toward him.

Bullets came closer and the shooter seemed to be following him as he moved seeking more cover. Instinct and training told him to count the rounds. After 10, though, he lost track.

Maples felt a burning sensation in his legs, like he was running through sticker bushes. He thought, “I need to get the heck out of here.”

He ran for cover, dropping to the ground “like a sack of potatoes” as a round hit his ankle. “At the time I wasn’t sure my foot was still there,” he said. On the ground, “I could feel the bullets still whizzing past me.”

Maples testified he felt pressure in his chest, and blood dripping down his left leg. His upper thigh also was penetrated by shrapnel. He thought of his family.

He positioned his head behind the axle and a wheel of his patrol car to protect himself. Then the truck carrying the gunman sped away.

Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Ed Stemler asked Maples if he’d had a clear shot at Hansen, would he have taken it? “Absolutely,” the sergeant replied.

That’s why he’d grabbed the rifle over his handgun. He knew it was more accurate and it held more rounds.

Within a minute or two, other officers arrived, and someone put a tourniquet on Maples’ leg.

“It was a pain … it’s not like they train,” he said. “It was excruciating.”

A few minutes later, Hansen was shot in the head by another officer. He and Maples were taken to the same Everett hospital.

In earlier testimony, one detective recalled watching from the hallway as life-saving machines were rolled in and out of both rooms.

Maples missed two and a half months of work, and underwent surgery. Doctors told him he might need another procedure if the metal fragments in his ankle and shin cause problems down the road. He limps now, he said, and his pain is constant.

Police officers from throughout the county had filled rows of the courtroom Thursday for Maple’s testimony. As he fought tears many averted their eyes.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com.

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