All southbound lanes of the freeway at Olympia were closed for three hours until the freeway was partially reopened at 6 a.m. and completely cleared by 7:10 a.m., said Washington State Patrol Trooper John J. Gundermann.
Gundermann said the chase began near Fort Lewis, south of Tacoma, when a southbound car was driving about 90 mph and "basically using all lanes of the road."
Pursued by three or four patrol, military police and Thurston County sheriff's officers, the car hit a sheriff's spike strip that flattened the tires. The vehicle went out of control about a mile down the road, hitting a concrete barrier on the freeway in Olympia, and coming to a stop facing northbound in the southbound lanes of I-5, Gundermann said.
After stopping, the man moved around inside the car in apparent agitation, took pictures of the officers with his cellular telephone and then dialed 911 and asked that they be told to back off for a minute or two, Gundermann said.
Officers waited five to seven minutes, then moved toward the car again. As one officer moved to open the door, the man suddenly drew a gun and shot himself to death in the head, Gundermann said.
"This could have been worse than it was," he said. "That bullet almost hit one of the officers."
The driver was not immediately identified and the patrol had not determined why he shot himself, Gundermann said.