A deputy U.S. Marshal fired a shot into a gray SUV that marshals cornered in a Southeast Portland parking lot Monday, striking the driver in the neck as a federal task force attempted to arrest the motorist who was wanted on felony warrants in Washington.
At least two to three unmarked U.S. Marshals vehicles pulled up behind the SUV in a small parking lot off Southeast 11th Avenue, and the SUV’s driver tried to back up and ram the marshals’ vehicles, according to the U.S. Marshals Service and witnesses.
Witnesses said it appeared the single gunshot shattered the back window of the suspect’s car.
“A nearby officer found himself between the vehicles and fired a single, defensive shot,” Deputy U.S. Marshal Chris Tamayo wrote in a release Tuesday.
Roman Culver, 23, of Covington, Wash., was removed from the driver’s seat onto a stretcher and taken to a hospital, where he remains. The U.S. Marshals Service did not release his condition.
The U.S. Marshals Service Pacific Northwest Violent Offenders Task Force was trying to arrest Culver on King County, Washington, warrants that accuse him of armed robbery and escape.
Members of the task force removed another man from the front passenger seat at gunpoint. He was seen bleeding from his ear, witnesses said.
That man was taken to a hospital for treatment and then released to the custody of the Portland Police Bureau for further investigation. He has not been publicly identified. It’s unclear if he was wounded by the gunshot or broken glass.
Michelle Barrett, who was working nearby, said she had just returned from eating her lunch in her truck, which was parked in the same lot.
“I heard a pop noise, which sounded like gunfire,” she said.
When she looked out her business’ front window, she saw a gray SUV in the parking space next to her truck and men with guns drawn standing on both sides of the gray vehicle.
“Then all of a sudden more marshals showed up and a gazillion police,” she said.
Danielle Witt, another nearby worker, said she saw the gray SUV pull into the lot on Southeast 11th Avenue, from Ash Street, and sit in the middle of the lot for about 15 minutes or so before moving into a parking space. The car couldn’t go any further because of a barrier.
Then at least two or three unmarked dark SUVs pulled in right behind the vehicle, she said, and the marshals immediately threw open their doors and rushed out with their guns drawn.
The driver of the gray SUV tried to back up, Witt said.
“I don’t know what they thought they were going to do because they were blocked in,” she said.
According to the U.S. Marshals Service, officers had commanded Culver to stop backing up the gray SUV, but he continued to accelerate.
Another man working nearby said he first heard “a big screech like someone slammed on their brakes and then a bang.”
When he looked out his window, he saw armed men wearing ballistic vests with guns drawn surrounding the gray SUV.
He said he heard commands: “Show me your hands! Get out of the car! Get on the ground!”
The man in the front passenger seat was able to walk out of the car and was handcuffed and taken to sit on a stoop near Witt’s office. Witt said the man’s white shirt was bloody and that he received medical care at the scene.
Barrett’s truck was parked next to the suspect’s SUV and had to be moved before officers and emergency medics were able to get to Culver, who was wounded in the driver’s seat, according to witnesses.
“They had to wrench the guy’s door wide open to get him out,” Barrett said.
Culver is wanted in King County on a Jan. 7 warrant issued for first-degree robbery with a firearm and a May 2021 warrant issued for escape from the Washington Department of Corrections, according to Tamayo.
The U.S. Marshals Service also said Culver is a “person of interest” in a homicide from the Seattle area and there’s probable cause tying him to a drive-by shooting and alleged carjacking in Washington.
“Deputy U.S. Marshals and our task force officers take the safety of the public, all law enforcement officers, and the fugitive into account during an apprehension,” Oregon’s acting U.S. Marshal, Pete Cajigal, said in a statement. “This job has become increasingly difficult and dangerous as we have seen an increase in violent crime and gun violence, and a general lack of accountability for these crimes.”
The deputy U.S. marshal who fired the gunshot was not identified Tuesday. The deputy was placed on administrative leave but will be back to full duty on Wednesday, according to Tamayo.
A gun was recovered from inside Culver’s vehicle. The front passenger and two women who were in the back of the suspect’s car were not arrested.
— Maxine Bernstein
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