Kennewick’s retired urban engineer and his wife, a longtime educator for Tri-Cities, were found dead in their home this week, likely at the hands of one of their sons.
Police and crime lab technicians began investigating the deaths of Vickie and Daniel Kaufman at their east Kennewick home on Thursday.
They were the parents of the 43-year-old suspected shooter in a fatal rampage on Wednesday that left one neighbor dead, another wounded and three houses burned. Fires were also set in two union halls in Kennewick.
Ryan Kaufman, a longtime Tri-Cities electrical worker, is believed to have died in a burning pickup truck in West Richland on Wednesday morning. His truck caught fire during a police chase that resulted in an exchange of fire with four officers.
While investigators have linked the Kennewick couple’s deaths to the West Richland shooting, the suspect has not been formally identified as Ryan Kaufman.
The only person in the truck was badly burned and the coroner said his identification was pending. An autopsy was scheduled for Friday.
According to online police broadcasts, an alarm attempt was issued on Ryan James Kaufman as an arson suspect on Wednesday morning after the 4am attack on the 21000 block of East Finley Road.
The warning came with a safety warning to officers to look out for a 1973 orange Dodge pickup truck with Kaufman who was “last seen wearing a ballistic helmet and gear” and armed with an assault rifle.
“If you are found, be careful,” the warning said.
Almost eight hours later, Kaufman’s parents were discovered at their home by a family member who had been looking for them after not hearing from them for a day.
He told emergency services that he had found her “murdered”.
He also told emergency officers that Ryan Kaufman was their son.
Kennewick investigators did not say when Vickie, 68, and Dan Kaufman, 75, died.
Nobody called 911 to report they heard gunshots or saw the fire that caused great damage, Lt. Jason Kiel.
Police are asking neighbors at Block 4300 on Gum Street to check their surveillance cameras for anyone walking in and out of the neighborhood between 3:30 a.m. and 4:30 a.m. on Wednesday, August 25.
Finley shoots, fires
Investigators from various law enforcement agencies spent much of the week methodically processing the series of crime scenes that stretched approximately 20 miles from east of Kennewick to Van Giesen Street in West Richland.
Benton County MPs were called for the first time shortly before 4 a.m. on Wednesday for a break-in at the house on East Finley Road, in which one man was shot and another was later found dead in his burning house.
Public records show that Kaufman owns a Finley house next to Emil “Bob” Zlatich Jr., 77, the former longtime owner of Zip’s by the Cable Bridge restaurant.
Family members told the Herald that Zlatich died in his home on Wednesday after someone tried to get inside.
A body, believed to be Zlatich, was later found in his burning house. This autopsy is also planned for Friday.
A relative who called 911 that morning said Zlatich’s son of the same name was shot and wounded.
The 911 caller also said both his house and the neighbor’s house were on fire.
Benton County MPs found Emil “Rob” Zlatich, 58, in the back yard with a gunshot wound when they arrived.
On Thursday he was in stable condition at the Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane. He was flown there on Wednesday after emergency surgery at Trios Southridge Hospital in Kennewick.
Those who knew his father mourned his death. Bob Zlatich Jr. was a man who was “very intelligent and kind,” said a Facebook post from Zip.
“Bob has been a friend and mentor that I look up to in this business life and in life in general. … (It’s) so hard to have to let go of someone who gave me so much to remind me of, “the post said.
Benton County’s appraisal records show that the Kaufman lived next to the Zlatich family for 20 years.
Kaufman, who attended Kennewick High, bought his 1,500 square foot home on 1.9 acres in 2002.
Two years later, Washington Secretary of State records show that Kaufman and another man were registering a company called Windy Acres Construction. The store had the same address as Kaufman’s house in Finley. The company was dissolved two years later.
Kaufman worked as an electrician and was a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers for more than 20 years, said Travis Swayze, the local 112 sales representative.
“Ryan was a good guy and he was a good electrician,” Swayze told the Herald. “I didn’t think he would do that.”
He described Kaufman as friendly and would love to talk to people, but was generally calm.
Kaufman has never had problems with the union leadership, and they are still puzzled as to why he forcibly opened and set fire to the doors of a union hall on Edison Street and a training center on Gage Boulevard.
Swayze said the fires broke out in the entrances with gas canisters burning.
On Friday, the union was still in the process of repairing the damage. The fire in the hall on Edison Street triggered the sprinkler system. There was no sprinkler system in the training building, but the fire did not cause any major damage.
Swayze said they have temporarily closed their building and are offering minimal services to members.
He said they were sadder about the bigger tragedy.
“Our hearts go out to the families affected,” he said.
Gum Street victims
Vickie Kaufman, 68, was a respected and popular longtime Tri-Cities educator who taught strategies aimed at helping students achieve language proficiency.
Her specialty was Guided Language Acquisition Design (GLAD) for students learning English as a second language.
According to her LinkedIn profile, the mother of three spent more than 17 years in the Pasco School District.
Shane Edinger, the district’s public affairs director, said she retired a few years ago.
“We are shocked and saddened by this sudden and tragic loss,” said a message sent to district officials on Friday.
According to her LinkedIn profile, she had also worked for the Kennewick School District and in Columbia-Burbank and Umatilla, Oregon for many years.
Her husband Dan retired in 2011 after working as a city engineer for 26 years, the city said.
He celebrated his 75th birthday last month.
His wife posted on her Facebook page at the end of July: “Happy birthday to my best decision ever!”