MERLIN, Ore. — An investigation into a suspicious house fire Wednesday night resulted in a violent addendum, according to fire officials — with two suspects leading deputies on a high-speed chase, shooting at their pursuers, then crashing into a guard rail.
Rural Metro Fire and Grants Pass Fire Rescue first responded to a house fire in the 4000-block of Midway Avenue around 10:30 p.m. on Wednesday night. According to Rural Metro, the house was believed to be vacant and occupied by transients. There were no injuries reported in the fire, and officials began an investigation into the fire's origin.
A few hours later, a deputy from the Josephine County Sheriff's Office stopped to help what they believed was a stranded driver near the intersection of Riverbanks Road and Lower River Road. But the Sheriff's Office says that the driver sped away as the deputy approached, "spinning the tires and sliding sideways in the roadway."
The deputy followed and tried to stop the fleeing driver, but they continued speeding eastbound on Lower River Road toward Grants Pass at speeds above 90 miles per-hour. The deputy gave chase.
According to the Sheriff's Office, the driver stopped in the middle of the roadway near the intersection of Lower River Road and Stewart Road, reached out of the driver's side window with a handgun, and fired at the deputy in his patrol vehicle. The shot missed, and the suspect sped away again.
Two other deputies joined the pursuit before it ended abruptly when the suspects slammed head-on into a guard-rail on Azalea Drive near Galice Road a little after 2 a.m. The Sheriff's Office said that the occupants of the vehicle were a male driver and a female passenger.
Emergency crews responded to the crash, and both suspects were taken to hospitals in Grants Pass and Medford with serious injuries.
Rural Metro said that the two are believed to be connected to the house fire, though the investigation into both incidents is ongoing. Oregon State Police is leading the investigation into the pursuit and shooting.