Bellingham man kills ex-girlfriend, then dies of gunshot wound

BELLINGHAM - A Bellingham man shot his ex-girlfriend multiple times, killing her, in the 2400 block of J Street near Broadway Park on Friday morning, Feb. 5.

The man, identified as Daniel Salas, 55, then returned to where he was living in the 2800 block of Moore Street and died when confronted by police. Police are unsure if shots they fired killed the man or if he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The woman has been identified as Tawnia Costan, 39, of Bellingham.

According to a birth notice in The Bellingham Herald, the two had a son in 2000. They apparently never married and had since broken up.

The son was at school during the shooting, said Mark Young, Bellingham Police spokesman. The child is now in protective custody through Child Protective Services.

The incidents began Friday morning when Salas went to the home of Costan's new boyfriend, Matt Donna, on J Street. At about 9 a.m., neighbors called 911 reporting hearing shots.

Carlton Burroughs, whose living room looks onto the backyard of the J Street home, dove to the floor when he heard the shots. He peeked through the curtains and saw a man in the yard holding a revolver, arm extended. Costan was just a few feet from Salas.

Salas fired, and Burroughs saw Costan get hit by the bullet. She fled back inside the house, with Salas following her to the porch, firing several more shots at her, Burroughs said.

Salas then ran off.

Donna said he performed CPR on Costan after she collapsed when she ran back into the home, but she stopped breathing within seconds.

Medics took her to St. Joseph Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

Donna said Costan spoke with Salas frequently because of their child but that she was scared and had tried to get a protection order against him.

Salas was booked into the Whatcom County Jail early Jan. 1 on suspicion of obstructing domestic-violence reporting, although more details of that incident were unavailable Friday.

"It just keeps going through my mind," Donna said of Friday's shooting. "He kept following her and shooting at her. She was such a caring, loving person."

Shortly after the shooting, a resident in the 2800 block of Moore Street called 911 to report seeing a man with a gun. Police quickly put the two incidents together and sent officers to the area.

When officers arrived, they saw Salas running away carrying a gun. Two officers chased him. During the chase, one of the officers fired his gun at Salas, Young said.

Salas died at the scene of a gunshot wound, but it wasn't clear if he had killed himself, Young said. The Whatcom County medical examiner is expected to determine what was the fatal shot. Autopsies on Salas and Costan are scheduled for Monday, Young said.

Following standard procedure, the officer involved in the shooting has been placed on administrative leave during the investigation. Of the officers involved in the chase, one had 20 years of experience and the other 26 years, Young said.

The Whatcom County Sheriff's Office is investigating the officer's role in the shooting. Young said the Sheriff's Office hopes to have its report on the shooting finished within a week and sent to the Prosecutor's Office for review. The autopsy findings for Salas will be part of that report, Young said.

If ruled a murder-suicide, Friday's incident would be the second in Whatcom County this year. On Jan. 6, Sean D. Wilson fatally shot 14-year-old Felicity Boonstra inside his Peaceful Valley home before turning the gun on himself. Boonstra was the daughter of his girlfriend, whom he also shot, but she survived.