Would-be helicopter hijacker bounced from state to state
Hillsboro Police say the "real heroes" from the July 3 incident at the Hillsboro Airport were a handful of Aero Air employees who managed to keep a would-be helicopter hijacker in place until law enforcement arrived.
Holden Gorka, 25, attempted to hijack a helicopter at Aero Air Academy just before noon on July 3, according to police. He waved a gun at a student and instructor and forced them out before climbing in himself and preparing to take off.
Department spokesperson Henry Reimann said it appeared Gorka "knew what he was doing" in the cockpit.
"He was getting ready to start it back up and get her rolling," Reimann said.
But before Gorka could escape, several Aero Air employees drew guns of their own — legal concealed carry, Reimann noted — and distracted Gorka.
Cops arrived a few minutes later. Gorka was shot by 27-year department veteran Melvin Ambrose in a nearby field, according to police.
Nearly two weeks later, the incident remains under investigation by the Washington County Major Crimes Team, which has kept quiet about its findings so far. Ambrose and several other officers are on paid administrative leave, which is standard department procedure, Reimann said. Ambrose was the only officer involved in the shooting.
Both the student and the helicopter instructor were unharmed, though police say Gorka fired a single shot.
Details about Gorka's background have trickled out from his various social media accounts, and through the stories of friends and family.
Gorka lived life moving from city to city, according to a close friend who spoke with KOIN 6 News, a media partner of the Tribune.
Gorka's driver license photo, and the mug shot circulated by police, was taken in Texas. Voting records place him in Olympia, Wash., while various social media sites tie Gorka to Hawaii and Florida.
"He had a rough time getting stable, but from me talking to him, sounded like things were working out for him," Cody Countryman said. "He was a trucker, seemed like he was enjoying it. He was making money. He was doing pretty good in life."
Despite Gorka's apparent familiarity with the helicopter, a search FAA records don't indicate Gorka had his pilot's license. Aero Air Academy told KOIN 6 it didn't know of a link to Gorka.
Ambrose has been in the news several times in the past. He worked with the K9 unit for 13 years, and was featured by the Hillsboro Argus when he retired from K9 work in 2012.
Ambrose was partners with former Hillsboro officer Tim Cannon, who was sentenced to 10 years in jail in 2014 after engaging in a shootout with Forest Grove police.
Ambrose's wife, Alana Ambrose, was among the organizers of a benefit concert for the wife and children of Cannon.