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Ex-officer could face death penalty

A former Medford police officer and owner of a Roseburg powerboat company could face the death penalty for allegedly gunning down his former girlfriend Friday at a Washington beach city in front of police and onlookers, authorities said.

Prosecutors in South Bend, Wash., will decide this week what charge to file against Brian Brush, 47, in the death of Lisa G. Bonney, his 45-year-old former girlfriend who had a restraining order out on Brush in July when she told authorities she feared for her life.

Possibilities include a single count of aggravated murder, which in Washington could lead to the death penalty, said David Bustamante, a senior deputy prosecutor for Pacific County.

Bustamante said other possibilities include first-degree murder with an aggravating factor, which could lead to life in prison without parole for a conviction under Washington law.

"There are two or three options we're looking at right now," Bustamante said Monday. "We have a lot of witnesses we need to talk to before we make any decisions."

Bustamante said he expects to file one or more charges by Thursday afternoon.

Brush made his initial court appearance late Monday in Pacific County Superior Court before Presiding Judge Michael J. Sullivan, who set Brush's bail at $50 million.

Though no charges have been filed, Sullivan ruled that police had probable cause for arresting Brush Friday on the single charge of first-degree murder.

Brush remained in the Pacific County Jail in South Bend Monday.

Police told the Longview Daily News that Brush and Bonney were seen arguing at a Long Beach beach-access point around 4:40 p.m. Friday during a large car rally there.

Brush allegedly then walked to his truck, retrieved a shotgun and fired three times, with the shots heard and seen by Long Beach police about 150 yards away.

Officers approached Brush, who threw the gun into beach grass, police said. Officers then discovered Bonney's body and arrested Brush without incident, police said.

Brush was a patrol officer for the Medford Police Department from 1988 until July 1994, when he left the force for an unspecified medical disability, Medford police Deputy Chief Tim George said.

"He left in good standing with us," George said. "But that was a long time ago."

Brush was the owner of North River Jet Boat Inc., which was under federal investigation for suspected wire fraud for allegedly attempting to scam a bank to boost the company's credit line.

The News Review newspaper in Roseburg reported that Bonney's restraining order in July included an e-mail from Brush stating that he could not control his rage and that he had "crash-landed."

Jim Bittle, who is president of Willie Boats in Medford and a former fishing guide partner of Brush, said Brush told him in 2007 that he was all but broke financially.

Last year, Brush's divorce was finalized and several lawsuits were pending against him and his company, court records show.

In April, the FBI accused Brush of fraudulently swelling North River's inventory figures in an attempt to increase his bank credit line, but he has not been charged with any crimes associated with that investigation, records show.

Bittle said the death of Brush's mother last year also shook him intensely.

"When his mom passed, he lost the foundation of his life," Bittle said Monday.

Brush and his then-wife bought North River in December 1997.

Oregon Business magazine named Brush on its list of 50 Great Leaders in 2004, the same year he pushed North River to the top sales among Oregon's aluminum boat-building companies.

The killing happened during an annual car festival that draws about 60,000 people to Long Beach. The police who witnessed the shooting were patrolling the beach on foot during the event, Long Beach Police Chief Flint Wright told the Daily News.

Several other people on the beach witnessed the shooting and are cooperating with police, according to a Long Beach Police Department news release.

Brush has a home in Long Beach and has lived in the town, with a population of about 1,500 people, for the last year, Wright said. Bonney was Brush's on-again, off-again girlfriend, but they were not living together, he said.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 776-4470, or e-mail at mfreeman@mailtribune.com.

Ex-officer could face death penalty