Shell casings link Benton County arsonist & killer to separate crime scenes

Benton County, Kennewick
Road closed on W Van Giesen for an officer-involved shooting on August 25, 2021 (Image credit: Benton County, WA Sheriff's Office, Facebook).

KENNEWICK, Wash. — Forensic evidence gathered by law enforcement agents across Benton County has officially linked their prime suspect, Ryan Kaufman, to a double homicide and string of arsons at separate locations throughout the Tri-Cities.

According to a press release issued by the Kennewick Police Department, officers recovered shotgun shell casings at a home on S Gum St where two homicides and arson took place. Authorities located similar shell casings at each of the IBEW facilities targeted in this string of crimes, where the suspect used his shotgun to breach the exterior doors of each building.

RELATED: Kennewick PD names Ryan Kaufman in deadly rampage; 2 victims identified

Kennewick Police sent the shell casings to the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN) for evaluation. Those tests confirmed that the shotgun shells recovered at all three scenes were discharged from the same firearm. Additionally, the KPD investigation has determined that Kaufman was in possession of the same shotgun at the IBEW building on N. Edison St.

KPD investigators are still evaluating evidence from S. Gum St in cooperation with the Benton County Sheriff’s Office and West Richland Police Department.

RELATED: 4 dead, 1 injured in gruesome rampage across Kennewick, Finley, and West Richland

On August 25, a violent and fiery rampage across Benton County claimed the lives of three victims plus the suspect himself. There’s reason to believe that Kaufman first targeted the IBEW’s training facility and main facility in two separate instances of arson.

Later that day, two deceased adults believed to be the Kaufman’s parents were found dead in their home on S Gum St, where investigators determined that someone intentionally set a fire.

Kaufman is also being looked at in connection with a string of fires along Benton County highways that morning. Though he hasn’t been officially named, there’s reason to believe that Kaufman shot two more victims in Finley. One of those victims, who has since been identified as Emil Robert ‘Bob‘ Zlatich Jr., died from his injuries.

WATCH: Zlatich house fire in Finley; neighbor Kaufman suspected

The rampage came to an end when police officers observed the suspect entering West Richland in a burning vehicle that matched the description of the suspect’s car. As Tri-Cities police officers followed from behind, the suspect allegedly stopped at a red light and began to fire his weapon at local law enforcement, who returned fire and killed the suspect.

Please be advised that Kaufman has not been formally declared the shooter as the county awaits autopsy results.

This is a breaking news story. An update or follow-up will be issued as further details are revealed.


RELATED: “Kind-Hearted” community member slain in string of shootings, arsons