Washington state

Trooper honored by international police association

BALTIMORE - A Washington State Patrol trooper seriously injured last year in a shootout with a suspected drunken driver at a Spanaway gasoline station has been honored by an international police association.

The International Association of Chiefs of Police named Kelly Kalmbach, 48, as its 2006 Trooper of the Year. The association presented Kalmbach with the award last week during a conference in Baltimore.

Kalmbach stopped a suspected drunken driver in the 19600 block of Mountain Highway East just before midnight June 28. During the arrest, the driver ran to his car, grabbed a gun and fired at Kalmbach.

She returned fire and was shot five times during the exchange. A short time later, Pierce County sheriffs deputies killed the gunman, Jack Sonntag, a 25-year-old member of a prominent Pierce County family, when he refused to drop his gun.

"We knew Kelly was an excellent trooper before this tragic incident," Patrol Chief John Batiste said in a news release. "It was not a surprise that she handled herself so well when the going got tough."

The International Association of Chiefs of Police is a nonprofit organization based in Virginia. It has more than 20,000 members in 89 countries and promotes police practices, recruitment and training.

The association receives nominations for its Trooper of the Year award.

Kalmbach, a wife and mother, sustained nerve damage in her left arm that limits its use. She's not been able to return to work but doctors say improvement is still possible, the State Patrol reported.

Kalmbach, a trooper for more than five years, was transferred to Benton County earlier this year. She told The News Tribune in December that she hopes to return one day to patrol work.