A shootout with two drug robbery suspects resulted in the first death in the line of duty of a U.S. Forest Service law enforcement officer in the agency's history, authorities said Friday.
Brent K. Jacobson, a law enforcement and fire prevention technician, was killed Thursday night while helping police track two men wanted for robbery and kidnapping, said Ed Few, deputy chief of law enforcment of the agency in Washington, D.C. Jacobson was a native of Provo, Utah."He is the first Forest Service law enforcment officer to die in the line of duty since the Forest Service was founded in 1906," Few said in a telephone interview.
The agency has 600 uniformed law enforcment officers and 124 special agents, many of whom are involved in drug investigations on federal land.
Bonner County Sheriff Chip Roos said Jacobson was killed in a shootout at 5:12 p.m. Thursday while helping track two men through snowy, heavily forested hills near Dover, Idaho, just west of Sandpoint. He said the trackers came upon the men and the suspects opened fire, with officers returning fire.
The suspects, one of whom was wounded by police, surrendered and were in custody Friday, facing charges that included first-degree murder, robbery and kidnapping.
One of the suspects, James K. Pratt, 29, was under heavy guard at Bonner General Hospital, where he was being treated for gunshot wounds to the thigh. Joe E. Pratt, 27, was taken to the Bonner County jail after his feet were treated for frostbite.
The Pratts are believed to be brothers from Sandpoint, officials said.
Jacobson, 41, is survived by his wife, Barbara, a stepdaughter and a stepson, said Alan Gibbs, spokesman for the Idaho Panhandle National Forest. Funeral arrangements were pending.
Jacobson lived in Sagle, Idaho, and was based at the Sandpoint Ranger District. He served four years in the Navy and had worked for the Forest Service for 13 years.
Roos said events leading to Jacobson's death began at about 9:15 p.m. Wednesday, when two men dressed in black, wearing ski masks and carrying handguns burst into a Sagle home and demanded money and drugs from the home's eight occupants.
The gunmen bound three occupants with duct tape and searched the home. People hidden in a bedroom phoned police, Roos said.
As deputies drove up to the home, a fight broke out between one of the residents and thieves. Mark Palaniuk, 22, was shot in the head and leg and was treated and released from Bonner General Hospital, Roos said.
The gunmen took one man hostage and fled on foot to a county road near where they had left their car, Roos said. They released the hostage and fled in the vehicle, which was spotted by a detective in an unmarked car.
"They ran one roadblock here on U.S. 95 and Garfield Bay Road," Roos said. "It crossed into a convenience store parking lot, where the suspect vehicle opened fire on our detective's car. He hit it, we count seven times. Our detective returned fire. I saw one round hit the suspect vehicle."
He said the suspects later ditched their car after it hit a snowbank and became stuck. They fled on foot with a posse trailing them through the night and all day Thursday. The sheriff declined to provide details of the confrontation in which Jacobson was shot.