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Fort Lewis, Washington - May 1984
I was a sergeant of Military Police at the time of the incident, stationed at Ft. Lewis, Washington. I had gone to investigate a reported disturbance within the tree line, near the post stockade. This was early May 1984, approximately 0300-0400 hrs (the bars had closed shortly before the call).. The MPDO heard strange cries from within the forest and wanted it checked out. I went in one direction while the K-9 unit went another, to sweep the area.
We planned to meet at an old railroad spur, not too far into the trees. I saw nothing nor heard a sound until the K-9 apparently made contact with something, as I heard five distinct pistol shots, at which point I heard a deep, guttural, growl building into an extremely high pitched howling (I'd never heard anything like that) and the sounds of something large crashing through the thick brush and foliage in the area. (Important to note that I was too young and gung-ho, i.e. stupid, to be scared!) I was armed with my issue .45 and 12 Ga. riot gun and continued to the rendezvous point, hearing nothing further.
At the spur (sort of sunken with high berms), I went up the far side and halted at the edge of a large meadow. The captain was already there at the rendezvous, having not seen anything either. Neither of us knew that the K-0 had fled the forest on the tail of the dog. We were about to head back when I caught movement in the adjacent tree line off to my left. I could plainly see a large dark shape mocking along the southeast edge of the meadow, but still within the tree line. (Mt. Rainier Was SE of my location and this was the direction of movement.) It appeared to be a bear. I held my weapon at the ready. When the object turned and came out, into the meadow, it was approximately 35 yards from our position, moving from left to right. It did not register at first, as I nearly pulled the trigger, but something didn't look right. Bears walk on all fours; this bear was clearly walking on two legs.
It was getting on towards morning as false dawn was in evidence. I could see well enough, but not as to clearly make out facial features. All I can figure is the wind must have shifted for the creature stopped and turned its head and looked directly at me. It turned its whole body and just stood there looking at us, arms by its sides. The creature was not threatening us at all so I lowered my weapon and did not open fire. I remember the head moving slightly from side to Side, it did not move closer and neither did we. We stared at each other for less than 2-3 minutes (maybe less) ultimately it resumed its original direction and walked away, looking back once but kept going, disappearing into the opposite tree line.
© M.T. Coppola, Fort Lewis, Washington.