Peaceful Valley, WA – The sheriff released more details about what led up to the shooting of two Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) deputies on Thursday and thanked the armed good Samaritans who came to the wounded heroes’ aid and kept them safe until backup arrived.
The Bellingham Police Department (BPD) said the incident began at about 3 p.m. on Feb. 10 when a homeowner started burning a trash pile outside their home and the smoke bothered a neighbor, 60-year-old Joel B. Young, KGMI reported.
Police said Young became enraged and went outside and yelled at the neighbor burning trash, claiming that smoked had blown through the windows into his home, the Bellingham Herald reported.
The neighbor responded with an expletive, according to police.
Young had been drinking and he became enraged, KGMI reported.
So he grabbed his shotgun and went outside and fired birdshot into the air near the neighbor who was burning trash, according to police.
Then he went back inside his home and had another beer.
A neighbor called 911 and reported that Young was outside firing his 12-guage shotgun into the air, the Bellingham Herald reported.
Two Whatcom County sheriff’s deputies responded to the address near Peaceful Valley and State Route 247 in the Maple Falls area, KGMI reported.
Deputies arrived on the scene at about 4:30 p.m. and when Young heard them announce themselves, he went outside yelling and waving a gun, the Bellingham Herald reported.
“Sheriff’s Office — drop the gun!” the deputies ordered Young.
Young ignored the deputies’ commands and opened fire on them instead, the Bellingham Herald reported.
One deputy was shot in the head and fell to the ground.
The second deputy put himself between Young and the wounded deputy and returned fire, the Bellingham Herald reported.
Young opened fire on the second deputy and shot him, too.
Then he retreated to a position of cover nearby.
Police said that was when good Samaritans armed with their own weapons stepped forward and fired multiple shots in the direction of Young to provide cover for and protect the wounded deputies, the Bellingham Herald reported.
The good Samaritans told KING that they were military veterans and they weren’t going to sit still and watch law enforcement officers be murdered so they took their children inside their homes and came back out with their own guns.
Other neighbors jumped in to assist the first good Samaritan and they were able to pull the wounded deputies into a garage and out of the line of fire.
The good Samaritans immediately began performing first aid on the wounded heroes as they waited for an ambulance to arrive, the Bellingham Herald reported.
Both wounded deputies were transported to nearby hospitals for treatment as soon as backup arrived.
One deputy remained under observation at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Bellingham and the other was transferred to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle for treatment by a specialist, the Bellingham Herald reported.
Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo said both deputies were in “stable” condition, KGMI reported.
Backup arrived from multiple law enforcement agencies and the Bellingham police called in the SWAT team and surrounded Young’s home.
Bellingham Police Department Spokesperson Claudia Murphy told the Bellingham Herald that Young surrendered to deputies just after 6 p.m. and was taken into custody without incident.
He was booked into the Skagit County Community Justice Center and charged with two counts of first-degree attempted murder.
The investigation is being headed up by the Law Enforcement Mutual Aid Response Team (LEMART) and the Whatcom County Prosecutor’s Office.
“We are ever so grateful the WCSO deputies are in stable condition and that no residents were injured,” Bellingham Police Chief Flo Simon said in a statement. “The members of the LEMART team are working tirelessly to ensure there is a thorough and complete investigation delivered to the prosecutor’s office.”
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the WCSO deputies, their families, and the entire Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office. We wish them a speedy recovery,” Chief Simon said.
Sheriff Elfo posted a statement to Facebook on Sunday that applauded his deputies’ bravery and the heroics of the good Samaritans that came to their aid.
The sheriff wrote that “despite being seriously wounded and impaired by their injuries, both deputies courageously followed their training, stayed in the fight and took care of each other and area residents.”
“Second, we are extraordinarily blessed that several armed citizens came to the deputies’ assistance at the critical moments when they were most vulnerable,” the sheriff continued. “I have contacted all three of the good Samaritans and expressed appreciation on behalf of myself and all members of law enforcement and their families. There will be a more formal recognition of these humble citizen heroes once more details of their actions can be released.”