Monday, July 03, 2017

Police identify man who tried to seize helicopter at Hillsboro Airport (KHIO), Washington County, Oregon

Holden Gorka was shot to death by officers after allegedly attempting to steal a helicopter on Monday. 

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Family and friends of the man shot to death after allegedly trying to steal a helicopter said they can’t believe it.

Hillsboro Police on Wednesday said Holden Austin Gorka, 25, jumped a fence Monday to get into Hillsboro Airport and then approached a flight instructor and a friend who were inside a helicopter. He ordered them to get out, firing at least one round during the incident.

Gorka then ran off into a field where he was shot by a Hillsboro Police officer after a confrontation.

Gorka’s friends and family said it’s completely out of character for him.

According to Cody Countryman, Gorka’s best friend, Gorka never really got into any trouble. He didn’t drink or do drugs and he didn’t have a criminal record. Countryman also said Gorka was engaged.

Countryman said, “He had a rough time getting stable, but from me talking to him, sounded like things were working out for him. He was a trucker, seemed like he was enjoying it. He was making money. He was doing pretty good in life.”

Gorka also lived with Countryman for a few years. He ran away from home and was “kind of homeless,” so Countryman and his family took him in.

Hillsboro police said it appears Gorka lived in multiple cities across the country. Records show he was registered to vote in Olympia, Washington.

According to Countryman, Gorka had a difficult childhood and went from city to city after getting his GED.

Hillsboro Aero Academy said they aren’t aware of any connection between Gorka and their company. FAA records show there is no one with that name who has a pilot’s license and Countryman also said he wasn’t aware of Gorka having any experience flying helicopters.

However, police said at the time of the attempted hijacking, it seemed like Gorka knew how to operate a helicopter.

Still wrapping his head around the incident, Countryman said he remembers Gorka as “a great person.”

“He’s one of the most loving and caring people I’ve ever met,” Countryman said. “He’d always be by your side no matter what. I really don’t know what drove him to do this.”

Hillsboro Police have not yet named the officers involved in the shooting.

Holden Gorka as seen in his driver’s license photo from Texas as seen on July 5, 2017.
 (Hillsboro Police Department)

HILLSBORO, Ore. (AP) — Authorities in a Portland, Oregon, suburb released the identity Wednesday of a man who they say tried to steal a helicopter at gunpoint before being fatally shot by police.

Holden Austin Gorka, 25, had no known address and no known mental health or drug abuse issues, the Hillsboro Police Department said in a statement.

An autopsy was completed Tuesday but results of toxicology tests won't be ready for another two to three months, authorities said.

The name of the officer who fatally shot Gorka will be released Thursday, the statement said.

According to authorities, Gorka jumped a fence at the Hillsboro Airport on Monday and held a flight instructor and a student at gunpoint, firing at least one shot before police showed up. That shot — and possibly a second misfire — were directed away from the victims, who were in the helicopter as it was warming up for takeoff.

The man got into the helicopter, but officers arrived before he could take off. The man then ran across a street and into a field, where he was shot.

The man died at the scene shortly before noon. No other injuries were reported.

Investigators have to yet to establish the man's motive for trying to steal the helicopter, but authorities said Wednesday that he was not connected to the Hillsboro Aero Academy, the airport's flight-training school.

A witness, Christopher Neal, told reporters that he and his family were watching planes at the small airport when he saw a man walking in wearing a gray hoodie. The man looked at them and then started running toward the fence. He pulled a gray mask over his face, Neal said.

The Hillsboro Airport, established in 1928, is one of three airports operated by the Port of Portland.

It's about a 40-minute drive west of the Portland International Airport, the region's main airport.

As Christopher Neal watched planes fly in and out of the Hillsboro Airport with his wife and young son, a stranger in a gray hoodie caught their eye.

With his hood up and hands in his pockets, the man walked from across Northwest Cornell Road toward a barbed-wire fence leading to airport property, Neal said. The man briefly looked at the family, then back toward the fence.

It was the beginning of a bizarre attempt to hijack a helicopter that left a gunman dead in a field across from the airport.

"For a moment, I thought to myself that it was a little warm for the big, thick, gray hoodie with the hood over him," said Neal, Public Safety Director for the Port of Portland, which owns and operates the airport. Neal said he was there on his day off because his son likes to watch planes.

The hooded man ran toward the fence, pulled a mask over his face, climbed the fence, stepped on the barbed wire at the top and went over.

Neal said he rushed his family back into their car and went to a nearby parking lot.

Within the hour, Hillsboro police said the man tried to steal a helicopter at gunpoint outside a flight school, hopped back over the fence at the sight of an officer and was fatally shot after a chase into a nearby field. 

It was 11:23 a.m. when the masked man went up to a helicopter with a flight instructor and student inside as it was warming up with its rotar spinning overhead at Hillsboro Aero Academy, said Lt. Henry Reimann, a Hillsboro police spokesman. The man opened the door, pointed a gun at the student and ordered the student out.

When the student hesitated, the man fired one round away from the helicopter and the student got out and ran away, Reimann said. He then went to the other side of the helicopter and pointed a gun at the instructor, who was also the pilot. He ordered the instructor out and then jumped in.

"At that point our sergeant showed up," Reimann said.

The man ran from the helicopter, went back over the barbed-wire fence and fled across Cornell Road near the Comfort Inn. 

A second Hillsboro police officer encountered the man in a field and shot him, Reimann said. The man died at the scene.

No other injuries were reported. Police haven't yet identified the suspect.

Flights were halted briefly but the airport was open by 1 p.m., officials said.

Andy Smith, a general aviation intern at Hillsboro Airport, said he was doing a perimeter check at the airport and when he got back into the office he picked up a call from CNN. That was the first he heard of the shooting.

He said he checked with the airport tower, which confirmed a shooting.

The Port of Portland said Hillsboro police are leading the investigation and referred all questions to them. 

More than 25 businesses operate at the 950-acre airport, including flight schools, corporate flight departments, aircraft charter services and air ambulance services. It was established in 1928.

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