The man shot and killed by Spokane County Sheriff's deputies Tuesday night near the Spokane Valley Mall was an Army combat veteran who had been struggling with PTSD.
Family members confirmed Wednesday the man shot by deputies was 23-year-old Jed Zillmer, a 2008 Lewis and Clark High School graduate, and an Army veteran who served in combat in Afghanistan.
Tuesday night a chase started around 7 p.m. between Zillmer and law enforcement officers in the City of Spokane that headed east to Coeur d'Alene where Zillmer turned around and headed back to Spokane Valley, where the chase ended at the intersection of Sullivan and Indiana near the mall.
Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said Zillmer was suicidal and believed to be heavily armed when they started the pursuit. Zillmer called dispatch at the start of the pursuit around 7 p.m. and told them he was suicidal, heavily armed and wanted to commit suicide by cop, even saying he would shoot civilians if it took too long for deputies to shoot him.
That's why deputies stopped him at Indiana and Sullivan before he traveled into a more populated area. When they stopped him, Zillmer got out of his vehicle and pointed a gun at himself and adjusted his bulletproof vest.
"Doing that, officers opened fire because there was some kind of movement," Knezovich said.
As the investigation into the deadly shooting is already underway, one thing investigators will look at as why Zillmer decided to take his own life.
"We'll also try and figure out what the background story of what caused him to want to have his life taken," Knezovich said.
Family members have an answer for investigators. They said Zillmer, a combat veteran, had been wounded in action and received the Purple Heart. One family member went so far to say he was a "wonderful guy who had PTSD." The family member said a lot of them didn't know just how bad it really was.
Friends said Zillmer was also legally married and was planning to have a formal wedding this summer.
The VA Medical Center held a press conference Wednesday, saying they offer a number of services for veterans in crisis. They have help in the VA emergency room 24-7 and access to counselors for long term treatment.
"We're really reaching out and making sure services are available to our veterans anywhere they live," VA trauma therapist Dawn Gray said.
Zillmer was a student at Spokane Falls Community College, where he helped other veterans with paperwork as they adjusted to college life. The vice president of student services said Wednesday the students at the Vet Corps Center were shocked by the news of Zillmer's death.
Knezovich called the shooting was a tragedy.
"The deputies on scene did the best that they could to diffuse the situation and they were put in the horrible position to have to take his life," he said.