BOISE -- A total of three people have died after a Meridian home invasion ended with a house engulfed in flames Wednesday night .
Ada County Sheriff Stephen Bartlett said an elderly woman who lived in the house and one other person - likely the gunman who forced his way inside - perished in the burning home. Two other residents were able to get out, but one of them died from his injuries Thursday afternoon.
The tragic night began at about 10:30 p.m. when deputies were called out to 1570 West Amity Road after a woman inside the house called 911, telling dispatchers someone was pounding on the door and trying to get in.
As deputies were en route, they got an update.
"We found out the person that was banging on the door was not only banging, but that person had a gun in their possession and the family was extremely fearful for their safety," Bartlett said.
The suspected prowler got into the house just as law enforcement was arriving, the sheriff said. The deputies saw the man, carrying a rifle or a shotgun, step out of the home. The deputies yelled at him to drop the gun, but he refused, the sheriff's office says.
"At that time, there were multiple gunshots, rounds, that were fired," Bartlett said.
Two deputies shot at the suspect, Bartlett said. It's unclear whether the suspect fired his weapon.
Sheriff's officials aren't sure whether the bullets hit the gunman, but he disappeared back inside the house.
"Very quickly afterwards, the home engulfed in fire, in flames," Bartlett said. "It was a matter of just minutes [before] the entire home was burning."
The deputies broke windows and tried to direct the occupants out of the house. Two of the three residents escaped, but an elderly woman became trapped inside the burning home, and died in the fire.
"We were able to find the remains of another person inside the home at the location where we engaged in a gun battle with this individual," Bartlett said.
The sheriff cautioned that the ACSO had not been able to "100 percent confirm" that the second body in the house belonged to the gunman, but said there is not longer an active search for that person.
Bartlett said they do not know who the prowler is, or what he was doing at the house.
"We do not believe there is a connection between our suspect and the homeowners here in this location," he said.
The home was completely destroyed in the fire. A sheriff's spokesman said the charred structure ultimately collapsed, filling in what had been the basement of the home.
Investigators are working now to pump water from the firefighting efforts out of basement, so they can begin to put together the evidence left behind.
A sheriff's spokesman called the collection efforts a "complex scene," noting that much of the evidence was submerged in water or covered by mud, ash, and debris.
Bartlett promised a careful, thorough investigation to gather all the evidence, including any clues to how the fire started.
"We do know that we located a significant amount of gasoline here on the scene, but as to the igniter, the source of the fire and what caused that - we'll leave that to the state fire marshal and their investigation cause-and-origin team to determine that," he said.
Bryce Walker, a neighbor, said his son alerted him to the fire Wednesday night. When he looked outside, the flames were leaping sky-high, he said.
"The house is surrounded by trees, they're about 100 feet tall," he said. "You could see the flames were over the top of the trees."
He said the home invasion and fire were unsettling, particularly in light of his own strange experience in the neighborhood Tuesday night.
"The night before that, I got woken up by my dogs at about 2 a.m. - they were going crazy," he said. "I ended grabbing my pistol and having to go out and walk my barn. We thought someone was out behind my house."
Walker did not encounter anyone, but said he is left wondering if the prowler had been casing the neighborhood before breaking in next door.
"I travel a lot for work, and my family is at home by themselves," he said "Make sure we keep enough weapons in the house to protect ourselves."
Bartlett has asked anyone with information, or who saw someone or something out of the ordinary on their property, to call the Ada County Sheriff's Office at 208-377-6790 or Crime Stoppers at 208-343-COPS.
The Critical Incident Task Force, led by the Boise Police Department, has been called in to investigate the shooting.
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