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OCPD: No one could have saved Officer Rob Libke

Oregon City police officer Rob Libke would have lived for three days in November instead of one day had medical personnel been able to treat the gunshot wound to his head immediately after Lawrence Cambra fired.

by: PHOTO COURTESY: OCPD - Just before murdering Officer Rob Libke, Lawrence Cambra used this 2-by-6-inch board to try to break into a neighbor's house.After delivering the fatal wound to Libke, Cambra waited for 90 minutes in an unfinished garage off of Linn Avenue “waiting to ambush someone else” in the mind of Oregon City Police Chief Jim Band, who on Monday released the details of his department’s investigation into the shooting. Officers responding to the scene saw Libke bleeding profusely, neither breathing nor moving.

by: OCPD  - LibkeGiven the size and location of Libke’s wound, police immediately thought that Cambra was a marksman using a rifle, not just a crazed arsonist/girlfriend abuser carrying a 0.38-caliber revolver with a 2-inch barrel. Turns out, Cambra’s unlucky shot hit his neighbor’s latticed fence, increasing the bullet’s effective diameter to about three quarters of an inch through Libke’s skull. As a newly released witness video showed, Libke had just pulled his weapon and challenged Cambra, but then Cambra ducked behind a love seat on a neighbor’s porch.

“As we came up (Nov. 3) there was no question (Libke) was dead,” Band told reporters at a press conference in the Oregon City Municipal Courtroom Feb. 3. “We have to minimize the damage, minimize the loss of life and other people getting hurt. I’m extremely proud of what they did as a team… Sometimes one person dying is as good as (police work) gets, and it’s a tough business to be in.”

Dr. Seth Izenberg, a trauma surgeon at Emanuel Hospital in Portland, concluded that Libke would have died even if SWAT personnel had been able to shield him for a rescue attempt sooner. Izenberg said Monday that he was sure “no difference was made by that 90-minute delay” from about 1:07 p.m. when Libke was shot.

As Izenberg moved Libke to a gurney at 2:29 p.m., SWAT members approached Cambra, shooting him at the same time that he shot himself. In the 400-yard American Medical Response ambulance ride to a waiting Life Flight helicopter, Izenberg was able to determine that Libke’s pulse was dangerously low and prepared him for intravenous fluids and a breathing tube.

‘Not a nice guy’

According to his girlfriend’s testimony, Cambra had made threats to burn down the house as they argued over its ownership. After chocking her Nov. 3, she saw him go for his gun, so she ran to Linn Avenue, where she texted her son to pick her up. She never called police, and Cambra started the fire in his kitchen that would destroy the house at 841 Linn Ave. Band described Cambra as “not a nice guy” who built a fence without asking his neighbors, piled trash in front of the street and yelled at anyone who questioned him.

At 1:04 p.m. on that fateful Sunday, the original call came in as a fire about a mile from the police station, where Libke and Officer Sean Ellis were having lunch. Officer Jared Turpin was busy on a traffic stop, so Libke and Ellis arrived first, hearing on route that the suspect with singed grey hair was carrying a black handgun. The neighbor who had called in the fire called 911 back to report seeing Cambra with his German shepherd peeing himself in fear.

While Officers Ellis and Turpin talked with two men who weren’t the suspect, Libke investigated Eastfield Drive. Cambra had been trying to batter down the door of next-door neighbor Pam Laird’s house at 845 Linn Ave. before shooting Libke. The officer heard a loud pop, but they thought that it was probably part of the noise from the fire.

Laird yelled at the officers about the location of Cambra and Libke. The officers saw Libke looking dead, and that “officer down” call at 1:08 p.m. changed everything. From then on officers worked to protect themselves and evacuate neighbors, including Laird and her two grandchildren living with her.

At 2:04 p.m., using reverse 911, dispatch called homes within a two-mile radius to tell citizens to secure their homes and stay in place. Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrived 1:20 p.m. and deployed smoke grenades to get officers to better tactical positions.

At 2:22 p.m., as police tightened the perimeter around Cambra, an officer first sighted the possible suspect in the unattached, unfinished garage at 845 Linn Ave. By this time, Cambra’s home had nearly burned to the ground, with thick black smoke in the area.

Between 2:30 p.m. to 2:36 p.m, SWAT ordered Cambra to surrender to police, continued approaching the garage while simultaneously establishing a cover of ballistic shields between Libke and the suspect so they could retrieve Libke from where he was lying on the ground.

Cambra approached SWAT team members with his handgun, according to the newly released reports. He ignored requests to drop weapon and raised his weapon toward SWAT members. Detective Sergeant Matt Swanson and Deputy Jesse Unck, seeing the Cambra in the unfinished garage still without a garage door, fire on the suspect as Cambra simultaneously turned the handgun on himself.

Cambra was hit three times, twice by SWAT members and once by his own handgun. The suspect’s self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest was later determined to be the cause of death.