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U.S. Forest Service Officer Involved Shooting Update

Dept of Agriculture USFS Forest ServiceSedona AZ (September 24, 2014) – The Forest Service officer involved shooting on Friday, September 19, 2014, in the Clint Wells, Arizona, Blue Ridge area, resulted in the death of the man who attacked the officer. The investigation is ongoing.

The deceased man has been identified as Courtney James VanRiper, 66, also spelled Van Ripper, with a last known address in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. It is also believed that at some point Mr. VanRiper resided in an unknown city or town in the state of Wyoming.

The Coconino County Sheriff’s Office is conducting the external portion of this investigation. CCSO detectives have not been able to identify or contact any of Mr. VanRiper’s next of kin.

Mr. VanRiper’s name is being released at this point in the ongoing investigation with the hope that someone with knowledge of him can and will assist investigators in identifying and contacting his family members.

The Forest Service Officer, Douglas A. Pederson, 34, has been employed with the Forest Service for 15 years in several capacities, and as a U.S. Forest Service Law Enforcement Officer for two years.

Coconino National Forest area map

Coconino National Forest area map

On Friday, September 19, 2014, at 1:46 in the afternoon, Officer Pederson contacted a CCSO dispatcher by radio to advise he was making contact with an individual camping in the junction area of Highway 260 and State Route 87, off of Forest Service Road 616. The Sheriff’s Office provides dispatch and radio communication services to Forest Service Officers working within Coconino County. During subsequent transmissions, Officer Pederson advised dispatch that shots had been fired and requested emergency medical services immediately, and gave his location.

Pine Strawberry Fire Department EMS treated Mr. VanRiper at the scene and transported him to the Payson Regional Medical Center. VanRiper was pronounced deceased on Friday, September 19, 2014.

Officers with the United States Forest Service, the Arizona Department of Public Safety and agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation also responded to the location of the shooting.

At this point in the investigation, CCSO detectives have learned that Officer Pederson observed a vehicle parked in an unimproved area of the forest at a temporary campsite. According to the officer, he approached the camp and made contact with Mr. VanRiper, who had a DVD player in the vehicle on so loudly that communication was difficult.

The officer asked him to turn the DVD player’s volume down.

While in the vehicle, Mr. VanRiper spent a considerable amount of time sorting through items and the officer told him several times to come out of the vehicle. When Mr. VanRiper did exit his vehicle, he had a large can of bear repellant pepper spray which he sprayed at the officer striking him in his face.

Officer Pederson was partially incapacitated and, with impaired vision, fired multiple rounds at the suspect striking VanRiper twice. Officer Pederson administered first aid to Mr. VanRiper until he was relieved by emergency medical personnel.

Detectives learned that VanRiper was the subject of an outstanding felony warrant for a probation violation issued by the Yavapai County Superior Court. The vehicle in Mr. VanRiper’s possession was reported as stolen from the Flagstaff, Arizona, area.

Mr. VanRiper was also in possession of a stolen handgun.

CCSO detectives are continuing this investigation.

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