- Associated Press - Thursday, March 20, 2014

GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) - On Tuesday night, George Bundy Wasson, a retired educator, was recounting legends of his Coquille Tribe in a storytelling session at the University of Oregon.

By early Wednesday morning, however, Wasson, 79, was found shot to death in his burning hone in Eugene, Ore., police said.

Now investigators are trying to determine if Wasson was the first victim of Ricardo Antonio Chaney, who is also suspected of carjacking two men a short time later outside their home in Eugene before driving the stolen black BMW sedan to California. Once he arrived there, Chaney shot and killed Mendocino County Deputy Ricky Del Fiorentino before being shot and killed himself by police, sheriff’s officials said.

Eugene police spokeswoman Melinda McLaughlin said it was “more likely than not” that Wasson was shot dead by Chaney.

McLaughlin would not divulge any more details of the slaying of Wasson, who lived alone. Chaney had earlier been considered a person of interest by police because he knew Wasson’s family.

Authorities responding to the fire around 12:36 a.m. Wednesday at Wasson’s home found his body. The fire was started after Wasson was killed, authorities said.

Police said less than an hour after Wasson’s house was found on fire, Chaney stole a black, 2006 BMW 330i four-door sedan at gunpoint about five miles away near Autzen Stadium. The two occupants, men in their 20s, were leaving their home when Chaney forced them into the trunk at gunpoint, police said.

They were able to escape before the car left the parking lot and called 911. Neither man was injured.

About 10 hours after the carjacking, the sheriff’s office received a call from an employee of Confusion Hill, a California tourist attraction along Highway 101, about 180 miles north of San Francisco, that offers train rides through redwoods.

John Mills, 55, a front-desk worker, said he had found a man - later identified by authorities as Chaney - urinating outside a bathroom in a fenced park area. When Mills told him to leave, Chaney cursed and briefly drove away, but he then returned with a double-barreled shotgun, Mills said.

“Things went sideways from there,” said Mills, who grabbed a baton and hit the shotgun as the attacker came through the entrance, causing the weapon to fire a round into the ground.

Mills said Chaney then pointed the shotgun directly at him. Mills said he dropped down and rolled into a kitchen door, as another round was fired.

Mills said he got a pistol from the kitchen and shot back at Chaney, who fled to his car and drove away.

“Unfortunately, my aim wasn’t too good. If I had been better, then he might not have made it to do what he did later,” Mills told The Associated Press on Thursday.

Chaney was spotted about an hour later by a deputy, but he got away during a chase that reached speeds of more than 100 mph. He was encountered by Del Fiorentino in Cleone, a rural area with a mix of homes, forest and open fields, a little before noon.

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