ADA COUNTY -- Residents in the rural area of Amity Road and Linder in Meridian are shocked, saddened and frightened after a surreal situation unfolded late Wednesday night.
Three people have died after a Meridian home invasion ended with a house engulfed in flames Wednesday night. You can still sense the shock and fear from people who watched and heard the horror of Wednesday night's deadly events.
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 tragedy started around 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 in a press conference on Thursday,
He says the suspected prowler got into the house just as law enforcement was arriving and 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 says.
"At that time, there were multiple gunshots, rounds, that were fired," Bartlett added.
Two deputies shot at the suspect.
The Ada County Sheriff's Office late Thursday said Kuna police Officer Sage Hickam and Ada County Sheriff’s deputy Chris Matkin were not injured. Officer Hickam has been with the ACSO for 10 years. Deputy Matkin has been with the agency for four years.
It's unclear at this time 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.
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.
"It's scary," one nearby neighbor, Ann Lail, said.
Her family's is one of the closest homes to 1570 W. Amity. Around 10:30 p.m. Wednesday night, Ann's husband, Clayton, was awoken by several gun shots, followed by sirens.
"So I got up and came outside and I see all these officer vehicles parked along the road and everything then all of the sudden, the house starts on fire," Clayton Lail said. "All I can do is stand and watch."
Ann came outside, and they watched and recorded cell phone video as the flames reached clear above the massive trees on their neighbors' property and consumed the home.
"I said [to Ann], that thing is burning clear to the ground. Look at the flames on that thing," Clayton added. "It just sounded like firecrackers going off all the time, then you hear a boom like a propane tank or something maybe."
"We didn't know what to think," Ann said.
The Taylors live nearby; they, too, are feeling reverberations from Wednesday night.
"I didn't know if the prowler was dead or alive. It was scary," Sharon Taylor told KTVB. "Made me a little nervous."
"It's a concern," her husband, Paul, added.
Sharon says she was awoken by sirens a little after 10:30 p.m.
"It was like they just kept going and going and going," Taylor said. "This is unusual. Something really serious is going on."
Her husband told her he heard multiple rounds fired.
"It was all the sudden just look at the plume of smoke. But that house just blew up," Sharon added, "Lit up the sky pretty good."
"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," Sheriff Bartlett said.
For people who live in the very quiet, calm, rural Ada County neighborhood, it's hitting too close to home.
"We're thinking, 'Hey, we're out here in the country.'"And now it's making us think. I mean, I locked my car up in the garage. I've never done that before," Ann Lail added.
They were devastated to hear about their neighbors perishing due to the blaze, and terrified at the situation as a whole.
"When you hear, when you see something like that - and especially when it was somebody just walking around the house with a gun. It's like where did he come from," Ann said.
Sheriff Bartlett in a press conference Thursday afternoon said it doesn't appear the homeowners and suspect knew one another.
"This is a sad day for a family here in our community. We are trying to get everything done for that family on the sheriff's office side," Bartlett added.
Shooting and house fire in Meridian
The crime scene is very large and "complex" and investigators and officials have a lot of evidence to go through as they continue to sift through the rubble what remains of the farm house at 1570 W. Amity.
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 says the remains were found where deputies shot at the suspect. He also said there is no 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.
The Ada County Coroner's office will make the final identifications, the sheriff said. None of the victims' names have been released.
Many neighbors are thanking law enforcement for the way they handled this.
"The way the police handled everything, they kept everything really tight," Ann said.
"When I got up at 5 o'clock this morning, they had this cornfield locked down and police vehicles parked right here behind our house," Clayton added.
Sheriff Bartlett said it's been a cooperative effort.
"We, the Ada County Sheriff's Office, could not have done or responded to this call without the assistance of the Boise Police Department, and the Meridian Police Department, they were a big help to us and allowed us to staff this call adequately," the sheriff added.
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.