Axe-wielding Bainbridge man fatally shot by police

Left: Police Chief Jon Fehlman told reporters during a press conference that the Bainbridge Island man an officer fatally shot Tuesday night
Left: Police Chief Jon Fehlman told reporters during a press conference that the Bainbridge Island man an officer fatally shot Tuesday night 'had a history' with island police. Right: Douglas Ostling.
— image credit: Dennis Anstine/Staff Photo and Submitted Photo

Authorities say they were aware that the 43-year-old man who was fatally shot Tuesday night by a Bainbridge Island police officer had mental health issues.

Douglas M. Ostling was shot on a landing outside his studio apartment in the 7700 block of Springridge Road after he “aggressively approached” two officers with an double-blade axe during their response to a 911 call, according to Police Chief Jon Fehlman.

The officers, Jeff Benkert, 30, identified by Fehlman as the officer who fired “multiple shots into the lower torso” of Ostling, and Dave Portrey, 38, have been placed on paid administrative leave – standard protocol after an officer-involved shooting

Cmdr. Sue Shultz said Thursday that the department knew there had been “prior reports dealing with mental issues” involving Ostling, whose parents, William and Joyce Ostling live in a house adjacent to the garage.

Fehlman said the incident began when a man called 911 at 8:39 p.m. and began screaming and yelling unintelligibly at the dispatcher. Fehlman said it was unclear what the man wanted but officers reponded to what they considered an emergency.

“We had been there before on calls,” Fehlman said. “There was some history and familiarity with the man.”

When the two officers arrived at around 8:54 p.m., Fehlman said, the man was outside the garage and began screaming at the officers and acting aggressively.

“He would charge them and then stop when the officers put their hands up,” Fehlman said. “This continued until officer Portrey deployed a taser. It functioned, but the man continued his erratic behavior.”

Ostling ran into the garage, which contained an inner staircase to his second-story studio apartment. The officers followed him up a narrow stairwell and were near the top landing when Ostling emerged “holding an axe over his head,” Fehlman said.

“Benkert used his firearm and shots struck the man,” Fehlman said. “But he retreated to his apartment, locked the door and barricaded it so the officers couldn’t get in.”

The officers called a SWAT team and medics, and eventually it was determined from a roof skylight that the man was slumped on the floor, Fehlman said.

“When the officers entered the apartment they found the man was deceased,” Fehlman said.

Ostling’s family gave officers a spare key to the apartment after he had gone back into the unit, Fehlman said.

The man’s father, William Ostling, said Thursday that the family would not be making a statement about the incident.

Both city police and the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Department, which is handling the investigation into the police-involved shooting, said they had no idea why Ostling was so agitated both prior and after police arrived.

“We don’t know why he was so hostile or why he attacked the officers,” said Sheriff’s Deputy Scott Wilson. “We will be doing a thorough background check to see what was happening and whether we have dealt with this individual before.”

Wilson added: “Up until the case goes to the prosecutor’s office, we probably won’t be authorized to release any more information. Up until the time the prosecutors render a decision on whether or not the officers committed a crime, I don’t anticipate our detectives giving any additional information.”

Fehlman characterized the officers as “very experienced.” Portrey has been a Bainbridge part-time officer since 1994, while Benkert joined the force in 2007 after working with the Los Angeles Police Department.

Neither Fehlman nor Wilson knew if or when there had been an officer-involved fatal shooting on the island.

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