Zachary Levi Brimhall had picnicked with his parents at a remote spot in Oregon’s Coast Range last weekend then stayed to camp.
But on Monday, authorities say Brimhall called his father to say his car was stuck. When Ray Brimhall arrived, his son shot him multiple times, perhaps with two different guns. He then drove 50 miles to Bastendorff Beach where drove down the road, shooting up one parked car after another in the dark. He then shot and killed himself.
Authorities found shotguns, rifles, pistols, some large firecrackers known as seal bombs, and the makings for an improvised explosive device inside Brimhall’s car.
Coos County District Attorney Paul Frasier said four of the five cars hit by gunfire had people sleeping in them, but the last one, closest to the Coos Bay jetty, was the only one where someone was hit. David Jesse Hortman, 43, of Walker, Michigan, was killed when he was hit by one shot in the side while sleeping in the driver’s seat.
Hortman had told a co-worker at a recreation vehicle show in central Oregon that he was renting a car and taking a week off to drive the Oregon Coast, just looking at the ocean and sleeping in his car.
Hortman’s niece, Sarah Hudson, told the Grand Rapids Press that her uncle was artistic, a “jokester” and a family-oriented man who loved to travel and appreciated the beauty of the shoreline, which may explain why he decided to sleep in his car.
“He was just enjoying the view of the beach and the sunset,” Hudson said. “We didn’t expect anything like this to happen.”
He was a technical writer for a recreational vehicle parts and accessories manufacturer, working in Indiana during the week and returning to Michigan on weekends to care for his mother, she said.
Police responding to 911 calls of shots fired also found Zachary Brimhall, 34, of Dillard, dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in his car, an old Plymouth Pacer station wagon, Frasier said.
Brimhall sometimes slept in his car, as well as a trailer in his parents’ yard in Dillard, a small town in Douglas County dominated by a wood products mill complex, where his father had worked.
Deputies went to inform his family of his death, and to make sure he hadn’t killed anyone at home before killing himself, Frasier said.
There his mother told them that her son had called his father for help getting his car unstuck, and the father had not come home. She told them about the picnic, adding there had been no discord.
When they got to the picnic spot, just a clearing among trees along a logging road, investigators found Ray Brimhall’s white SUV, but waited for the bomb squad to check it out due to the explosives in his son’s car. They found Ray Brimhall’s body nearby.
“He was shot multiple times, in excess of five times, probably in excess of 10,” Frasier said.
Frasier said investigators may never fully understand what set off Zachary Brimhall.
“A lot of times in these cases, unless they left something in writing someplace or told somebody what they were planning on doing, it is really hard sometimes to find out the motivation for these things,” Frasier said.