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

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

They were shot while responding to a call of a dispute between neighbors.

Joel Young, of Maple Falls, made his first court appearance 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 a confrontation between Young and his next-door neighbor began after smoke from the neighbor’s burning garbage pile wafted into Young’s house and Young became irate when the neighbor refused to put the fire out, according to court records and the Bellingham Police Department, which is leading the officer-involved shooting investigation 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 per a mutual aid agreement, said Bellingham police Lt. Claudia Murphy.


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

Thompson and Rathbun were the first deputies to arrive and reported over 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, say the charges and a Bellingham police news release. They noted the man appeared intoxicated and advised dispatchers that they had established probable cause to arrest him on investigation of felony harassment, say the charges.

The deputies identified themselves as members of the Sheriff’s Office and ordered the man to drop his weapon, but he instead fired at the deputies, striking one in the head, Murphy said. The deputy fell to the ground and the second deputy returned fire before he, too, was shot in the head, she said.

Another resident fired a handgun at the man, forcing him to retreat into his house, according to Murphy. The resident then helped the deputies take cover inside a garage and administered aid until additional deputies arrived.

A sheriff’s SWAT team was called in and surrounded the house. Police say Young surrendered at 6:06 p.m. and was taken into custody without incident.