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Murder-suicide of a brother-in-law and a pharmacist rocks Tri-Cities. What we know

A Kennewick father and his brother-in-law are dead, and police are continuing to piece together what led to this week’s murder and suicide.

Autopsies for Travis M. Kitchen, 48, and Adam P. Klei, 44, are scheduled for Thursday in Thurston County, Coroner Bill Leach said.

The examination is expected to confirm that Kitchen died after being shot by Klei on Monday morning, and Klei died by suicide Tuesday as police closed in on him where he was hiding in a Kennewick ravine.

Klei, a licensed pharmacist, was the focus of the murder investigation after killing his brother-in-law during an outside confrontation on South Jean Street on the east end of town.

The pharmacist worked at the Kennewick Rite Aid at 101 N. Ely Street, a company spokesperson confirmed on Wednesday.

“We are focused on supporting our associates at this particular location,” according to a statement from the company. “Employee and customer safety is our top priority and we are committed to ensuring everyone feels safe in our stores.”

Klei previously worked as a pharmacist for Yoke’s Fresh Market until 2015. State records show Klei’s license was in good standing through this month but it’s unclear if he’d applied to renew it.

Members of the Tri-Cities Regional SWAT team and other officers gather after the body of Kennewick murder suspect Adam P. Klei was discovered in a ravine in east Kenenwick.
Members of the Tri-Cities Regional SWAT team and other officers gather after the body of Kennewick murder suspect Adam P. Klei was discovered in a ravine in east Kenenwick.

Kennewick police Commander Aaron Clem said Klei had been the focus of a police investigation prior to the shooting but police have not said what they were investigating.

On Monday, he had been at Travis Kitchen’s home on 27th Avenue and was walking away when the two men got into an exchange two blocks away.

Kitchen is married to Klei’s sister but the couple, who have five teenage children, were divorcing.

Klei shot Kitchen more than once and left him to die along the neighborhood street about 9:30 a.m. One of Kitchen’s daughters was with him when he died.

Soon after Kitchen was found, police searched Klei’s nearly $500,000 home on 53rd Avenue but he wasn’t there. Detectives said they expanded their search when they found enough evidence to arrest him on suspicion of murder. His car also was seized.

South Kennewick ravine

Following the shooting, untrue rumors spread quickly on social media, including claims that Klei had killed another person, stole a car and been involved in other crimes.

But an anonymous tip to the Kennewick Police Department’s website, kpdtips.com, proved fateful, Clem told the Herald.

The tip reported seeing a man matching Klei’s description walking into a canyon in the area of 44th Avenue and Gum Street shortly after the shooting.

Clem said the community’s help was invaluable in the case because it led officers to Klei’s hiding spot.

“I’m not sure how this would have been resolved otherwise,” he said. “We didn’t know where he was located. We had searched several different locations.”

Detectives, officers and a K-9 officer went into the ravine about 11 a.m. Tuesday, Clem said.

As they were searching, officers spotted a man matching Klei’s description and began talking with him.

“One of our detectives confirmed with visually seeing him and having a dialogue with him that he was our suspect from the homicide ... ,” Clem said. “There was some movement down there.”

Klei fired several shots toward the officers, he said, but police did not immediately return fire. Instead, more officers arrived to contain Klei and brought in “less-lethal” munitions.

That included using “pepperballs,” which are like paint balls with the same substance as pepper spray, according to dispatch reports.

At some point during the exchange, Klei collapsed, though it’s not clear when he shot himself.

What followed was a two-hour time period as police and the Tri-Cities Regional SWAT team surrounded Klei.

Police used more pepperballs and “flash-bang” devices to draw Klei’s attention, but he didn’t react, according to dispatch reports.

They also flew a drone over the area to see if he still had a gun and was moving.

When officers believed it was safe to approach him, they discovered he was dead from what appeared to be a self-inflicted shot, said officials.

Even though Klei was not killed by officers, Clem said a modified investigation by an independent Special Investigations Unit will review the firing of the less than lethal rounds before he died.

In Washington, SIU teams typically conduct an investigation and review of any incident in which an officer is involved that results in substantial injury or death.