Armed man seizes helicopter in Hillsboro, shot to death

Man got into a running helicopter but left when police arrived

A man who tried to steal a helicopter from the Hillsboro Airport was shot to death by police, July 3, 2017 (KOIN)
A man who tried to steal a helicopter from the Hillsboro Airport was shot to death by police, July 3, 2017 (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Authorities say an armed man was fatally shot by police after seizing a helicopter at the Hillsboro Airport.

Hillsboro police Lt. Henry Reimann said the man jumped a fence Monday to get into Hillsboro Airport and then approached a flight instructor and a friend who were inside a helicopter. The man ordered them to get out, firing at least one round during the incident.

Reimann said the man got into the helicopter, which was running, but officers arrived before he could take off.

“Our suspect jumped into the helicopter but as soon as he saw one of our sergeants pulling into the lot and getting out of the car he jumped out of the helicopter,” Reimann told KOIN 6 News.

“He seemed like he knew what he was doing at the cockpit,” but is not sure if the suspect is connected in any way to the Aero Academy at the airport.

The man ran into a field, where a Hillsboro officer fatally shot him. The man has not been identified. No other injuries have been reported.

‘It’s a little hot to have this hoodie on’

The incident began shortly after 11 a.m. and was witnessed by the director of public safety and security for the Port of Portland.

Christopher Neal told KOIN 6 News he was with his family watching planes come in at the Hillsboro Airport when he saw the man, wearing a gray hoodie, walk across the street.

“Immediately I thought, ‘It’s a little hot to have this hoodie on,’ and just as he walks by our car and looks at us and just got past that’s when he pulled the gray mask over his face,” Neal said.

The man hopped over the airport fence and began to run inside. Neal said he packed up his family and took off but got on his phone.

Neal’s wife, Vanessa Neal, said when they saw the suspect pull the mask up over his face they “decide to get our son into his car seat and buckle him up and go. And that’s when we heard shots fired.” She said they heard 2 shots.

Christopher Neal did not see the exchange between the employee and the man. The suspect had his hands in his pockets, and Neal said “you could tell he had something” in them.

“The Lord above took care of us today,” Neal said. “He was 10 feet from us and looked directly at us.”

Another witness, Alexander Rupe, said he heard “6 or 7” pops and saw a number of police officers running across the parking lot.

“At first I didn’t think much of it until I realized there was a lot of them,” Rupe said.

The suspect was described as a white man about 5-feet-8 who wore dark pants a gray sweater and a gray mask.

The FBI told KOIN 6 News they are aware of the situation at the Hillsboro Airport and are working in coordination with local authorities.

In a statement, the Port of Portland said:

“The Port of Portland is grateful for the quick and professional response of the Hillsboro police department. The Hillsboro police are leading the investigation into the incident. The Hillsboro airport has resumed airport operations.”

“I’m from Colorado,” Vanessa Neal said. “Columbine and the theater shooting are something we’re well aware of. I grew up hearing about it on the news, so for something to happen so close to us, definitely not a great feeling.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.