Washington State police assault bunker, find dead murder suspect

The door to the bunker
This undated photo provided by the King County Sheriff's Department on Friday, April 27, 2012, shows a bunker that deputies say belongs to a man suspected of killing his wife and daughter and who holed up for days in the Cascade foothills east of Seattle.
Uncredited/ASSOCIATED PRESS

By GENE JOHNSON and TED WARREN, Associated Press

NORTH BEND, Wash. (AP) -- After a 22-hour standoff, police blew the top off a rugged mountain bunker near Seattle on Saturday, only to find their target -- a man believed to be a murder suspect who holed up there -- dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound inside.

Authorities had not positively identified the body as 41-year-old Peter Keller, who hadn't been seen since his wife and daughter were found shot to death last weekend, King County sheriff's Sgt. Katie Larson said.

A bomb squad cleared the bunker, built into a ridge in the Cascade Mountains, to make sure there were no booby-traps before detectives entered. Officers shouted warnings before blowing the roof, Larson said. Tear gas pumped into the bunker didn't work on Friday. With clear weather and a fresh SWAT team in place Saturday morning, it was time to act more aggressively, she said.

It wasn't clear if any officers had heard the gunshot from inside the bunker, she said.

The raid ended a tense week for law enforcement officials who tried to track down Keller, a gun enthusiast described by his family as having a ``survivalist mentality.'' That Keller was likely armed and on the loose in an extremely popular hiking and mountain-biking area east of Seattle kept many people on edge.

"There's been a huge sigh of relief," Larson said. "Our people are out safe, and the trails are now safe for the community to use."

Keller spent eight years building the bunker into the side of Rattlesnake Ridge, police said. It was thoroughly camouflaged and had multiple levels. Photos of the inside of the bunker, released by the King County Sheriff's Office, showed a shelf full of ammunition boxes stacked inside Ziploc bags.

SWAT teams spent a grueling seven hours on the mountainside Friday morning, virtually crawling over dangerously steep terrain slick with mud from recent rains, before they found the bunker. A number of officers were treated intravenously for dehydration, and one broke his ankle, said sheriff's Sgt. Cindi West said.

After long shifts, the officers appeared exhausted, their faces smeared with camouflage paint, as they rode down the mountain in sport-utility vehicles or armored carriers to be replaced by fresher teams.

SWAT officers who kept watch on the bunker through Friday night said they saw lights going on and off, and they believed its occupant had everything necessary to remain inside for a long time -- including a generator, food, gas mask, bullet-resistant vest and many guns.

Photographson the weekends and was stockpiling supplies at a fort in the woods.

Peter Keller withdrew $6,200 from a bank last week and told one of his co-workers at a computer refurbishing store in Preston that he might not return, according to court documents.

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