David Durham’s best friend was his dog Huckleberry. No question. They were inseparable.
“His whole life was surrounded by his dog,” said Jay Hollingsworth, Durham’s former neighbor. “That’s why it is so hard to fathom what happened to Dave.”
Durham is charged with shooting a Lincoln City police officer on January 23, 2011. He then led police on a high speed chase along Highway 101.
Just before crashing near Waldport, police think Durham tossed his beloved dog Huckleberry out the window of his moving truck. Durham then took off running down an embankment.
He hasn’t been seen since.
For the past five years, detectives have chased down hundreds of leads and possible sightings from Hawaii to the East Coast. They even staked out a house at an undisclosed location with U.S. Marshals for almost 10 hours. Durham wasn't there.
The prevailing theory among law enforcement is that Durham is dead. Police speculate he could have shot himself as police closed in or he drowned while trying to swim across Alsea Bay. Nobody knows. His body has never been found.
The FBI occasionally circulates wanted posters for Durham and there’s still an active federal warrant for his arrest.
“I’m hoping he is still alive and that we can find him,” said Detective Charles Lane of the Lincoln City Police Department.
How Durham vanished
On January 23, 2011, Durham and his dog Huckleberry showed up unexpectedly at a gathering of friends on the Oregon Coast. He was especially quiet.
Friends say Durham had been acting erratically after injuring his shoulder and taking prescription pain medication. At times, the 43 year old sounded delusional, friends say.
“He would tell me, ‘I got people after me,’ which he didn’t,” said former co-worker and neighbor Hollingsworth.
The last known images of Durham were captured by a security camera at a convenience store in Lincoln City, where he’d stopped to fill up with gas and use the restroom. The video shows Durham wearing camouflage, which wasn’t unusual. Durham designed his own camouflage clothing.
Shortly before midnight, Lincoln City Police Officer Steven Dodds stopped Durham for speeding along Highway 101. Durham was going 47 mph in a 35 mph zone. An image from officer Dodd’s patrol car dash cam shows Durham’s 1984 Dodge SUV stopped along the roadside.
“During the entire traffic stop, he was very respectful and cordial to Officer Dodds,” said Detective Lane.
Durham told the officer he was on his way to a military base in California.
Unexpectedly, Durham pulled a gun and fired. He shot Dodds three times then sped away. The injured officer got to his radio and called for help.
Dodds survived the shooting. He later returned to duty, but recently went on leave due to undisclosed medical issues related to the incident.
As officers chased Durham’s SUV south on Highway 101, police say he fired on passing motorists and patrol cars. Just north of Waldport, Durham hit spike strips set up by an off duty Lincoln County Sheriff’s deputy.
Before Durham came to a stop, he tossed his dog from the vehicle. Investigators say police dash camera video shows Huckleberry being hurled out the window.
“I think he threw that dog out the window to save its life,” said Lane. “He was thinking that he was probably going to have a shoot-out with police and his dog would probably be hit. So he was trying to get the dog out of the car before it stopped.”
Durham crashed into the guard rail after his SUV’s tires were shredded. He ran down an embankment and into the darkness.
Police sealed off the area. For several days SWAT teams and heavily armed police officers searched the Waldport area. Investigators feared Durham hunkered down in a vacant beach house in the Bay Shore subdivision or could be hiding in the woods.
On day three of the search, a neighbor spotted a dog. It was Huckleberry. The black and gray mixed breed dog was injured but alive. Police had hoped if they found Huckleberry they’d David Durham but the dog was alone.
When police searched Durham’s home in Sauvie Island they found survival gear, packed and ready to go. Photographs taken by investigators inside the home show high powered rifles, knives, boxes of ammo and a camouflage ghillie suit made to hide in foliage.
“He had all his survival gear and I’m not talking about cheap survival gear. I’m talking about arctic freezing water survival gear,” said neighbor Hollingsworth.
In the weeks leading up to the shooting, friends and relatives told police, “Durham has been selling off all his personal belongings, telling persons that he was going to travel to the Caribbean and live on an island there,” wrote FBI Special Agent Michael Holeman in a federal warrant.
Investigators say Durham’s passport indicated that he had traveled to Thailand in the past. He had also been to Central America.
“He always talked about having a sail boat and I think he’s capable enough to have a sail boat and get out of there one night,” said Hollingsworth.
Police put Durham on border-patrol watch lists and checked surveillance video from the California Agriculture Inspection Checkpoint on the California/Oregon border. They found nothing.
Five years later, police haven’t given up on the Durham case, even though the number of tips coming in have dwindled.
“This is one we’ve never closed,” said Lane.
Huckleberry has since found a new home. He’s now living with Durham’s former neighbor Jay Hollingsworth and his wife. The couple has developed a strong bond with the dog and it gave them reason to move into a new dog-friendly home.
“If it wasn’t for what happened, we wouldn’t be here right now,” said Hollingsworth with Huckleberry at his feet.
If you have information about the David Durham case call 541-994-3636.