Bellingham, WA – A sporting goods store employee with a concealed weapons permit shot a convicted felon who was allegedly trying to forcibly steal firearms from the business on Thursday afternoon.
The chain of events leading up to the shooting began at approximately 11:04 a.m., when two male suspects stole $517.43 worth of liquor from the Haggen Foods store on Meridian Street, Bellingham Police Department (BPD) Lieutenant Claudia Murphy said in a press release.
One of the suspects allegedly implied he had a gun and threatened to use it against one of the employees if he didn’t stop following him, according to Lt. Murphy.
The suspects fled the scene in a vehicle, but not before a store employee noted the license plate.
While BPD was searching for the suspect vehicle 14 minutes later, they received a call of a robbery-in-progress and shots fired at Yeager’s Sporting Goods store on Northwest Avenue, according to the lieutenant.
Investigators later determined that the same suspect accused of implying he had a weapon during the robbery at Haggen Foods ended up barging into Yeager’s Sporting Goods store armed with a hammer, Lt. Murphy said.
The 37-year-old suspect tried to smash a glass case to access the firearms inside, but he was unsuccessful, store manager Justin Simpson told The Bellingham Herald.
The convicted felon then jumped over the sales counter and tried to get his hands on the weapons and ammunition stored there, Simpson said.
“As the suspect was gaining access to firearms and ammunition,” a store employee with a concealed weapons permit “pulled his concealed firearm and shot the suspect once in the chest,” Lt. Murphy said in the press release.
The lieutenant said the employee was in fear for his life during the encounter, but was able to protect himself from injury.
BPD officers arrived at the scene to find the wounded suspect being held down on the floor by store employees, KIRO reported.
He was rushed to PeaceHealth before being transported on to Harborview Medical Center, according to Lt. Murphy.
Officers located the second suspect from the Haggen Foods robbery and spoke to him about both incidents.
The second suspect, age 41, was transported for medical attention due to an unrelated issue, Lt. Murphy said.
He remains under investigation for his role in the grocery store robbery.
Lt. Murphy said there is probable cause to arrest the 37-year-old wounded suspect on charges of attempted theft of a firearm, second-degree robbery, and first-degree robbery.
She said he may also face additional charges due to the fact that he is a convicted felon prohibited from possessing firearms, and because the vehicle he was driving was stolen, according to the press release.
Simpson praised BPD for how they handled the harrowing scene inside the sporting goods store.
“The Bellingham Police Department did a terrific job responding to the situation,” he told The Bellingham Herald. “The safety and well-being of our employees and customers is our utmost concern, and we’re so appreciative of how they handled it.”