By Steve Guntli
Whatcom County sheriff’s deputies used deadly force after two dogs attacked them during an investigation in Custer.
At 8:20 a.m. on April 14, deputies Steve Harris and Bill Roosma responded to a domestic violence call from a home in the 1100 block of Birch Bay-Lynden Road. The suspect in the assault, Chuck Wyatt, 40, was wanted on probable cause for assault in the fourth degree and for tampering with the reporting of domestic violence. According to the call the deputies received, Wyatt allegedly committed the assault at a house on Harksell Road, and then got a ride back to the Birch Bay-Lynden Road address.
On arrival, the deputies approached the residence and saw a lone male in the backyard with two pit bulls. When Harris called out to the man, the dogs charged at the deputies in an aggressive manner. Harris attempted to use a Taser to subdue the dogs, but they closed the distance too fast. One dog began jumping at Harris and chewing on his firearm holster. Roosma called out from an adjoining property to get the dogs’ attention, and the animals turned and charged at him. Harris called to the man in the yard to control his dogs, but the man ignored the request and walked into the house.
The dogs continued to attack Roosma, growing more aggressive and leaping at the deputy. Finally, Roosma fired one shot from his sidearm, as one pit bull was approximately four feet away. The dog, named Kane, was struck in the jaw. The male tenant, Toby Carlson, took Kane to the nearby Kulshan Veterinary Hospital, where he died. The other dog, named Jackson, was not harmed in the incident.
The dogs’ owner, Jacquie Lea Johnson, 37, was identified at the scene. Johnson was having breakfast and left Carlson in charge of watching the dogs. Johnson told deputies the dogs had been pepper sprayed and abused in the past and did not like people in uniforms.
Wyatt was not found at the location, and probable cause remains open for his arrest. Johnson told deputies she knows Wyatt but hasn’t seen him in a long time.
The shooting case is being referred to the county prosecuting attorney’s office to determine if the shooting was justified, and to determine possible assault charges for the dogs’ owner for not keeping them under control. In his report, Undersheriff Jeff Parks indicated the shooting was justified, as the angle of the gunshot wound is consistent with the deputies’ account.