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May-23-2007 18:50TweetFollow @OregonNews
Suspect in Police Officer Shooting With Ties to Missing Oregon Couple Found DeadTim King Salem-News.com
A missing Oregon couple is known to have associated with the man in Arizona, and their location remains a mystery.
(QUARTZITE, Ariz.) - The suspect in a May 17th shooting of a Quartzite, Arizona police officer was found dead in the desert today, about twenty miles from the California border. Gregory Allen Cole who went by the nickname of "Groundhog", is also tied to the disappearance of an Oregon couple.
Tim Mason with the Arizona Department of Public Safety, Arizona's state police, says Cole has been identified as the man who shot Quartzite Marshal’s Officer James Kemp less than a week ago, on May 17th, during a traffic stop.
"As Officer Kemp began to exit his patrol car, several shots were fired at him from the motor home from an unknown number of suspects. After the officer was shot, the driver of the motor home fled the scene. Investigators found the motor home soon after, abandoned in the La Posa Campground parking lot in the Quartzsite area."
Yuma, Arizona's KYMA TV told Salem-News.com today that Kemp is recovering from the gunshot wounds. It is not clear whether or not he has been released from the hospital.
Quartzite is a place known for its ample numbers of rock collectors and "snowbirds." Thousands of residents from Oregon, Washington, British Columbia and other places flock to this part of Arizona each year to enjoy pleasant off season temperatures. These snowbirds can be found in abundance as they literally triple the region's population each winter. Unfortunately, with that influx of visitors, there is animosity from many locals.
The missing Oregon couple is known to have associated with Cole. Police have distributed photos that show them at a camp site together. Betty Lou Japel and Kenneth Miller, are from McMinnville. Police believe it is a strong possibility that they were killed by Cole. With the street name of "Groundhog", Cole, who seemed to sport a look that was a split between military and outdoor survivalist, was already sought by police over two felony warrants that are unrelated to the shooting. He apparently had a substantial criminal history.
Oregonlive.com quoted Betty Lou Japel's son Joseph's reaction to the latest news, "They told us we might not ever see (Japel and Miller) again since (Cole) was the only one who knew where they were and he seems to have committed suicide."
Mason says investigators have also learned that the motor home used in the shooting displayed a license plate that belonged to the couple, which was from their Dodge Ram.
The couple did have a motor home as well as the Dodge truck. Police initially assumed Cole was in possession of the couple's motor home after he sped away from the shooting.
They learned while doing a records check on the vehicle identification number (VIN) that the motor home driven by Cole was not registered to the couple, it was in his own name. Furthermore, the couple’s motor home was recently located in Oregon.
But police had to sort things out, because as it turns out, Cole’s motor home is very similar to the couples’. It is a twisted story and Cole apparently had what it took to cause people harm. But dead men tell no tales and the whereabouts of Kenneth W. Miller and Betty Lou Japel remains unknown.
Arizona DPS, the United States Marshals Office and Quartzsite Police have established a tip line and are urging anyone with information to call 1-877-WANTED (1-877-926-8332) or 9-1-1.
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