Maple Falls, WA – Two Whatcom County sheriff’s deputies who took shotgun blasts to the face in February are filing a lawsuit against the man who is facing attempted murder charges for shooting them.
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 in the 3000-block of Green Valley Drive in Peaceful Valley, KGMI reported.
The smoke bothered neighbor 60-year-old Joel B. Young inside his home and he 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.
The neighbor called 911 and reported that Young was outside firing his 12-guage shotgun into the air, the Bellingham Herald reported.
Whatcom County Sheriff’s Deputies Jason Thompson and Ryan Rathbun 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] said something to the effect of ‘do you guys want to shoot?’ To which I said, ‘no, we’re the sheriff’s office,’ maybe he didn’t know who we were, ‘would you like to come out and talk with us?’” Deputy Thompson told KOMO.
But Young wasn’t interested in talking, according to the deputies.
“I think the last thing I said to him was, ‘sheriff’s office, drop the gun,’” Deputy Thompson said. “And then I was shot.”
Thirteen shotgun pellets entered Deputy Thompson’s head, KOMO reported.
The shotgun blast to the face broke the deputy’s nose and has caused him to lose the vision in one of his eyes.
That was when the second deputy on the scene put himself between Young and the wounded Deputy Thompson and returned fire, the Bellingham Herald reported.
But Young also shot Deputy Rathbun, KOMO reported.
Deputy Rathbun sustained injuries to his eye and a broken hand.
“It was very chaotic,” Deputy Rathbun recalled.
Young retreated to a position of cover after shooting the deputies, the Bellingham Herald reported.
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 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.
Young has been charged with two counts of attempted murder and was ordered held in the Skagit County Community Justice Center in lieu of $5 million bail.
Daniel Horne, the attorney representing the Whatcom County sheriff’s deputies, said his clients were filing a lawsuit against Young for assault and battery and reckless infliction of emotional distress, KOMO reported.
Horne said that while the deputies receiving care, they have a long road to recovery ahead of them.
“They were met with shotgun blasts to the face,” the attorney said.
The deputies said that the lawsuit was about sending the message that law enforcement officers are real people, KOMO reported.
“It’s about accountability,” Deputy Rathbun explained. “I’m a human. I’m a father.”