Son found dead, 73-year-old father opens fire on the SL police team
By DANA LARSEN
A 73-year-old Sac City man who died in a hail of gunfire after apparently killing his son and opening fire on Storm Lake Police officers, apparently fired the shot that ended his life himself.
The bizarre incident started Friday night shortly before 8 p.m. when a 911 call was fielded from the Howard Huen home, 2840 Union Avenue in rural Sac County, southwest of Sac City.
The caller reported that Howard Huen was being attacked by his son, Rodney Huen. About three minutes later, a second 911 call reported that Howard Huen had shot his son.
A Sac City Police officer was the first to reach the scene. He found the lifeless body of Rodney Huen, 34, in the driveway of the home. He was then met with gunfire from Howard Huen, but was not hit. Officers escorted other residents of the property away to a safe location, then set up a defensive perimeter around the house.
The Sac County Sheriff requested help from the Storm Lake Police Tactical Team and negotiator. As the Storm Lake officers arrived and began to approach the house, the officers noticed fires starting in multiple locations inside the home. As the tactical team moved closer, Howard Huen opened fire on them. The officers returned fire, and it was initially believed that they had killed him.
Autopsy results were received Sunday, confirming that Howard Huen was struck multiple times by bullets from the officers, but the cause of death was ruled a small-caliber handgun wound to the head that did not come from weapons used by police. Preliminary reports from the Woodbury County Medical Examiner indicate that the cause of death will be considered to be self-inflicted. Lab analysis also confirms that his son, Rodney Huen, died as a result of two small-caliber gunshot wounds.
Sac County Sheriff's officials were still searching for the motive of the conflict between father and son as of Monday.
The investigation is continuing, with additional information possibly to be released later today.
According to the editor of the Sac Sun newspaper, several rumors about the cause of the conflict are spreading around town, with the sheriff's department neither confirming or denying any of them at this time. Authorities have made no statement on the motive, but a spokesperson for the Division of Criminal Investigation did indicate that the dispute had not been an ongoing one, and had escalated only during the time the son had been visiting at the father's home Friday night.
At the time of the conflict, the only people in the home besides the father and son were Nancy Huen, wife of Howard Huen and mother of Rodney Huen, and a juvenile child who is not related to the family. They were not injured.
Sac County officials were assisted on the scene by four different city police departments and the Iowa State Patrol. Sharing in the investigation are the sheriff's department, the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation and the State Fire Marshall.
Storm Lake Public Safety Director Mark Prosser said his police department did not hesitate when called into the standoff. "We have had a trained tactical team for over 10 years now, and we have always responded to other departments when needed, as they have responded to our calls for help," he said.
While the tactical team has responded as far away as Fort Dodge for high-risk entries, search warrants and other requests, and the officers are no strangers to armed situations, Prosser said this is the first time that his officers have ever faced bullets.
"More than once we have had cases where a subject was going for a gun, but I don't recall any other situations where Storm Lake officers have actually been fired at," Prosser said.
He said the local officers remained calm under fire. "They were pros... they stayed focused and moved with purpose," he said.
While the purpose of the team is to secure a site, gather information and allow for negotiation to hopefully bring a peaceful end to a volatile situation, the men responded appropriately and did what they had to do to prevent the possibility of harm to innocent people, Prosser believes.
"The intent from the get-go was to bring this to a peaceful end, but unfortunately, this individual made the choice not to allow for that possibility," Prosser said.
Nothing was said during the attempt at negotiations that would explain the violence, he added.
A critical incident stress debriefing was held for the officers after the incident, both to gather information and to review the team's responses. This also allows officers the opportunity to talk about the use of deadly force that they had been exposed to, Prosser said.