No motive yet in Forest Service officer shooting

The death of Forest Service officer and Forks resident Kris Fairbanks shocked local residents as word of the shooting spread across the West End.

Friends and families gathered at the Fairbanks' home to comfort her husband, Brian, and daughter Whitney.

Forks Mayor Nedra Reed said on Sunday that she and her husband, Phil, were driving to Port Angeles on Saturday morning and found Kris Fairbanks driving behind them.

"She was following us and turned off at Snider (National Forest station), we both said she needed to be careful today, but no thought ever crossed our mind about what would happen."

"She was a good officer, wife, mother and friend," Reed said. "It's going to be real hard for the community. It's our responsibility to pull together and help Brian and Whitney get through this, one of the hardest things a family faces."

Marcia Bingham, the Forks Chamber of Commerce executive director, is a co-parishoner and neighbor of Fairbanks who lives in a quiet neighborhood five miles north of Forks city limits.

"Kris was an active member of our church," she said. "Kris and Whitney every year worked on our Christmas bazaar. They recently moved north of town, next door to me. I sat and talked with them, and she loved being outside of city limits, she said it was so quiet and peaceful out here. She was a wonderful mother, very involved with

her daughter."

Of her law enforcement work, Bingham said, "She was a tough cookie, she knew which end was up, she was as sharp as they come. I knew she would not have taken a chance (at the shooting scene) if there was any inkling of danger, she was very professional. She made a point of keeping in excellent physical condition and was mentally alert as well. She garnered instant respect, and she earned it."

On top of her work as a Forest Service officer, which included apprehension of timber thieves and illegal salal picking, Fairbanks was well known in the Forks community as a neighbor, friend and supporter of 4-H. She joined her daughter in showing dogs at 4-H competitions. Her love for dogs carried over into her law enforcement work, and she was an expert K-9 dog handler who taught what she had learned using a dog in law enforcement at regional workshops.

Her husband is an enforcement officer with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the

person called on when bears, cougars and other wild animals are spotted in and around homes in Forks, a common occurrence in the rural West End.

Kris Fairbanks is the daughter of John Willits, a former forestry professor who is now active with the North Olympic Land Trust.

Forks Police Chief Mike Powell said Fairbanks' death was a "huge loss" to the local law enforcement community. He said the fallen officer was very active in helping with K-9 training, and assisted in evidence tracking and in tracking suspects using her dog. "Following a shooting we used her dog, and the dog located a spent casing in deep grass," he recalled.

Powell said the death also "brings back the reality of it, that our lives are put on the line every day, as officers we get a little complacent about it ... you never know when you contact a driver if that will be your last contact or not."

Reed ordered flags to be lowered to half-mast in Forks in honor of Fairbanks.

"She was always there whenever we needed her," Reed said of Fairbanks' assistance to the Forks Police Department in her role as an Forest Service officer, and recalled the death of Fairbanks' first K-9 dog, and the memorial held for the dog.

The Forks mayor said that on Sunday morning churches across the community prayed for comfort and guidance for the Fairbanks family, including the congregation at the Fairbanks family's home church, the Prince of Peace Lutheran Church. The Forks Assembly of God took up a collection for the Fairbanks family during the Sunday service, a common community practice when tragedy hits West End families.

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