Tri-Cities and WA electrician suspected of rampage, 4 dead, fires started
The retired Kennewick city engineer and his wife, a longtime Tri-Cities educator, were found dead in their home this week, possibly at the hands of one of their sons.
Police and crime lab techs began investigating the deaths of Vickie and Daniel Kaufman at their home in east Kennewick on Thursday.
They were the parents of the 43-year-old suspected gunman in a deadly rampage on Wednesday that left a neighbor dead and another injured and three houses burned down. Fires were also started in two union halls in Kennewick.
Ryan Kaufman, a longtime Tri-Cities electrician, reportedly died Wednesday morning in a burning van in West Richland. His truck caught fire during a police chase that ended in an exchange of gunfire with four police officers.
While investigators have linked the death of the Kennewick couple to the West Richland shooting, the suspect has not been officially identified as Ryan Kaufman.
The only person in the truck was badly burned and the coroner said their identification was pending. An autopsy has been set for Friday.
An attempted locate alert was issued for Ryan James Kaufman as an arson assault suspect Wednesday morning after the 4 a.m. attack on the 21000 block of East Finley Road, according to broadcasts from the online police.
The alert was accompanied by a safety warning directing officers to watch an orange 1973 Dodge pickup with Kaufman, which was “last seen with a helmet and ballistic gear” and armed with a rifle. ‘assault.
“If located, be careful,” the alert said.
Almost eight hours later, Kaufman’s parents were discovered in their home by a family member who had visited them after he had not heard from them for a day.
He told emergency dispatchers that he found them “murdered”.
He also told emergency officials that Ryan Kaufman was their son.
Kennewick investigators did not say when they believed Vickie, 68, and Dan Kaufman, 75, were dead.
No one called 911 to report hearing gunshots or seeing the fire which caused extensive damage, Lt. Jason Kiel said.
Police are asking neighbors in the 4300 block on Gum Street to check their surveillance cameras for people coming and going in the neighborhood between 3:30 a.m. and 4:30 a.m. on Wednesday, August 25.
Finley’s shot, fires
Investigators from various law enforcement agencies spent much of the week methodically processing the series of crime scenes that stretched some 30 miles from east Kennewick to Van Giesen Street in West Richland.
Benton County MPs were first called just before 4 a.m. Wednesday for a break-in at the East Finley Road house, where one man was shot and another was later found dead inside of his house on fire.
Public records show Kaufman owns a house in Finley next to Emil “Bob” Zlatich Jr., 77, the long-time former owner of Zip’s by the Cable Bridge restaurant.
Family members told the Herald that Zlatich died at his home on Wednesday after someone tried to get inside.
A body believed to be Zlatich was later found inside his burning house. This autopsy is also scheduled for Friday.
A relative who called 911 that morning said Zlatich’s son, who has the same name, was shot and wounded.
The 911 caller also declared both his house and the neighbor’s house were on fire.
Benton County MPs found Emil “Rob” Zlatich, 58, in the backyard with a gunshot wound upon arrival.
As of Thursday, he was in stable condition at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane. He was flown there on Wednesday after emergency surgery at Trios Southridge Hospital in Kennewick.
Those who knew his father mourned his death. Bob Zlatich Jr. was a “very intelligent and caring man,” a Facebook post from Zip said.
“Bob was a friend and a mentor that I admire in this professional life and also in life in general. … (It’s) so hard to have to let go of someone who gave me so much to remember him, ”the post said.
Benton County assessor records show the Kaufmans lived next door to the Zlatich family for 20 years.
Kaufman, who attended Kennewick High School, purchased his 1,500 square foot, 1.9 acre home in 2002.
Two years later, records for the Washington Secretary of State show Kaufman and another man registered a company called Windy Acres Construction. The business had the same address as Kaufman’s house in Finley. The company was dissolved two years later.
Kaufman worked as an electrician and was a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers for more than 20 years, said Travis Swayze, Local 112 sales representative.
“Ryan was a good guy and he was a good electrician,” Swayze told the Herald. “I wouldn’t have guessed it to do something like this.”
He described Kaufman as friendly and spoke readily with people, but was generally calm.
Kaufman has never had a problem with union leadership, and they remain puzzled as to why he would force open the doors of an Edison Street union hall and Gage Boulevard training center and put fire.
Swayze said the fires started in the driveways with gasoline cans on fire.
The union was still repairing the damage on Friday. The fire in the Edison Street lobby triggered the sprinkler system. There was no sprinkler system in the training building, but the fire did not cause serious damage.
Swayze said he temporarily closed his building and offered minimal services to members.
He said they are most saddened by the greater tragedy.
“Our hearts go out to the families affected by this,” he said.
Gum Street Victims
Vickie Kaufman, 68, was a longtime respected and trusted Tri-Cities educator who taught strategies to help students master the language.
His specialty was Guided Language Acquisition Design (GLAD) for students learning English as a second language.
The mother of three has spent more than 17 years with the Pasco School District, according to her Linkedin profile.
Shane Edinger, district public affairs director, said she retired a few years ago.
“We are shocked and saddened by this sudden and tragic loss,” a statement sent to district staff on Friday said.
She had also worked many years for the Kennewick School District and schools in Columbia-Burbank and Umatilla, Ore., According to her Linkedin profile.
Her husband, Dan, retired in 2011 after working as a city engineer for 26 years, the city said.
Last month, he celebrated his 75th birthday.
His wife posted on her Facebook page at the end of July, “Happy birthday to my best decision ever!”