Whatcom County man charged with attempted murder for shooting two sheriff’s deputies with a shotgun

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A 60-year-old Whatcom County man was charged with two counts of attempted first-degree murder on Friday, accused of firing a shotgun at two sheriff’s deputies on Thursday afternoon, striking them both at the head with a bird bullet, according to prosecutors.

Whatcom County Sheriff’s Deputies Jay Thompson and Ryan Rathbun were identified in the charging documents as the injured deputies. Both were in stable condition Friday at PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center in Bellingham.

They were shot while responding to a call from an argument between neighbours.

Joel Young, of Maple Falls, made his first court appearance on Friday, when a judge set bail at $5 million and set his arraignment for Feb. 18. Court records do not yet indicate which defense attorney is representing him.

During the investigation, officials learned that a confrontation between Young and his neighbor began after smoke from the neighbor’s burning garbage pile entered Young’s home and Young became enraged when the neighbor refused to put out the fire, according to court records and the Bellingham. Police Department, which is leading the investigation into the shooting involving an officer as a member agency of the law enforcement Mutual Aid Response Team.

Because the shooting involved Whatcom County Sheriff’s Deputies and the Sheriff’s Office operates the Whatcom County Jail, Young is being held in the Skagit County Jail pursuant to a mutual aid agreement, Lt. Bellingham Police Claudia Murphy.

At 4:17 p.m. Thursday, several residents called 911 and reported that one of their neighbors was shooting his 12-gauge shotgun in the air in the 3000 block of Green Valley Drive, the charges allege. Other callers told dispatchers that two men were shooting at each other.

Thompson and Rathbun were the first deputies to arrive and reported on their police radios at 4:40 p.m. that one of the men, later identified as Young, was yelling at them and waving a shotgun, the charges say and a Bellingham policeman. Press release. They noted that the man appeared to be intoxicated and informed dispatchers that they had established probable cause to arrest him as part of a stalking investigation, according to the charges.

Deputies identified themselves as members of the sheriff’s office and ordered the man to drop his gun, but he instead fired at the deputies, hitting one in the head, Murphy said. The deputy fell to the ground and the second deputy fought back before also being shot in the head, she said.

Another resident fired a handgun at the man, forcing him to retreat to his home, Murphy said. The resident then helped the deputies hide inside a garage and administered aid until new deputies arrived.

A sheriff’s SWAT team was called and surrounded the house. According to police, Young turned himself in at 6:06 p.m. and was arrested without incident.

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