Seeking closure on officer shooting

David Anthony Durham

It has been more than eight years since Lincoln City Police Officer Steven Dodds was critically shot while on duty. It happened during a routine traffic stop at around 11 p.m. on Jan. 23, 2011. The shooter was never apprehended, and the FBI this week is placing a special emphasis on this and other unsolved cases — during National Police Week — in hopes of generating new leads from the public.

 The suspect in the shooting of Officer Dodds is David Anthony Durham. After the officer was shot, the suspect vehicle fled south and was spotted at the north end of Newport by officers from the Newport Police Department, who took up pursuit. There was a high-speed chase through Newport, across the Yaquina Bay Bridge and south down Highway 101 until the vehicle was disabled by spike strips laid across the road by a Lincoln County Sheriff’s Deputy. The driver of the vehicle bailed out of the car and ran into the nearby Bayshore subdivision. During his escape, the suspect fired at police officers, at a civilian in a passing car and even at a person crabbing in a boat on Alsea Bay, who he possibly thought was a police officer.

 But the man believed to be David Durham was never apprehended, despite an extensive manhunt in the days that followed. The FBI even issued a reward for information leading to his arrest, but to no avail. At this point, it’s not known whether he’s alive or dead.

After being shot, Dodds was flown to a Portland hospital in critical but stable condition. And as is so often the case here on the coast, Lincoln County residents rallied around this person in need. Initially, there was a candlelight vigil in a show of prayer and support, and later, multiple fundraising events were held to provide financial assistance to the family.

 Dodds remained in the hospital for 10 weeks, and when he was finally released to come home, he was greeted with a hero’s welcome. He was brought back to Lincoln City in a limousine provided by Chinook Winds Casino Resort, accompanied by police motorcycles and cruisers, with the medical helicopter that transported him to Portland on the night of the shooting hovering overhead. “It’s great to be back,” Dodds told the News-Times following his welcome-home reception. “It’s great to be anywhere.”

 Almost eight months to the day after he was shot, Dodds returned to light duty. One year after being injured, he was back on patrol.

 After all this time, there have been no new leads, and this week, the FBI is placing special emphasis on a handful of cases from across the country — the David Durham fugitive case is one of those that will receive extra attention. The case will be profiled online at www.FBI.gov and will also be publicized through the FBI's social media channels, including Twitter and Facebook.

 It would be great if this renewed effort leads to information that finally gives closure to the case. Lincoln City Police Chief Jerry Palmer put it this way: “For us, as Steve’s brothers and sisters in law enforcement, to have this guy manage to slip through our fingers is just one of those things that will nag us forever until we find a resolution some way. It’s for Steve, it’s for us, it’s for the community at large. It’s just very frustrating to have no closure on this for us.”

 Palmer also expressed appreciation to the FBI for shining a light on this case out of the hundreds of unsolved cases across the U.S. “We feel very fortunate,” he said.

 And we residents of Lincoln County are very fortunate for these individuals who are willing to put their lives on the line to protect our communities. They deserve our utmost respect.

More In Opinion