Teacher killed outside WA school before classes

February 26, 2010 7:40:57 PM PST
A man who appeared to have an intense but intermittent obsession with a special education teacher shot and killed her as she walked into her elementary school Friday, shortly before classes were to begin. The suspect was killed in a shootout with a deputy a short time later about 10 miles away, said Pierce County sheriff's spokesman Ed Troyer.

The man had posted bail Monday, a few days after he was arrested for violating a protective order the teacher, Jennifer Paulson, obtained in September 2008.

"She was a very kind, merciful, loving person," said her father, Ken Paulson. "That's probably why she was a special education teacher -- because she loved so much."

He described the 30-year-old as a devout Christian, and said she had been pestered by the shooter, Jed Waits, of Ellensburg, for years.

The two had known each other since she was in college, when they worked together at a cafeteria at Seattle Pacific University.

In her petition for the anti-harassment order filed in Pierce County District Court, Paulson said she and Waits occasionally socialized with co-workers and friends outside of work as a group but "never had any sort of romantic involvement."

She said heard from Waits about once a year since she graduated from college in 2003 -- and on that annual occasion he sometimes called her 10 to 15 times in one day.

Things became more intense in spring 2008, when he showed up her school, walked into the building and passed the office, where he was stopped by a secretary. Later that year, she saw him sitting in his car near the school.

"I never told him where I work and do not know how he found out," Paulson wrote.

He also sent roses and a bear to her at the school. Paulson's principal called Waits' commander in the National Guard to inform him of the harassment, she wrote.

Keith Kosik, a spokesman for the Guard, said Waits was repeatedly disciplined during his tenure with the service and was less-than-honorably discharged in April 2009. He deployed to Kuwait with his unit in 2007.

The anti-harassment order banned Waits from going within 1,000 feet of Paulson's home or school. But she saw him as she was leaving work last Friday, so she called 911 from her car. Waits was arrested that night, and after he made bail, Paulson stopped staying at her home, her father said.

Tacoma Police spokesman Mark Fulghum said there had been no indication that Waits had a weapon or had threatened Paulson with a weapon, but it appeared he had a serious infatuation.

The shooting happened at Birney Elementary, which has about 400 students in kindergarten through fifth grade. Classes were canceled for the day, and officials had not made a decision about Monday's schedule.

The shooter was waiting for the teacher when she arrived at 7:35 a.m. and shot her multiple times as she was trying to enter the school, Fulghum said.

"I heard a teacher screaming at the top of her lungs -- just screaming," said Omar Moreno, 22, who lives across the street from the school, adding he heard three gunshots. "I looked out my window and I saw the guy. He started running down the middle of the street and got in his car."

A deputy pulled over the suspect's car in the parking lot of a daycare, and he came out firing a handgun, Troyer said. The deputy returned fire and killed the man.

"We're lucky our guy's OK. The guy did have semiautomatic and did fire a round," Troyer told KCPQ-TV.

School district spokesman Dan Voelpel said Paulson worked in the language resource center helping students one-on-one with reading problems. She had been with the district since 2004 and at the school since 2007.

Paulson's death "knocked everyone flat," Voelpel said. "It's going to hit this community hard."

The shooting occurred three days after a 32-year-old man with a history of mental illness opened fire in a middle school parking lot in Colorado, wounding two students.


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