BirchBay man survives two shotgun blasts

Published on Thu, Jun 24, 2004 by ack Kintner

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Birch Bay man survives two shotgun blasts

By Jack Kintner

Brett Eddy, 44, was shot twice from behind at close range with a 16-gauge shotgun, allegedly fired by a one-time customer of his, Russ Alton, Jr., 45. Both men live in Birch Bay. The incident occurred around 2 p.m. Saturday, June 19 near Birch Bay-Lynden Road.
“I was scared out of my mind,” said Eddy, a navy veteran. A Sumas native, Eddy returned from Ohio to Whatcom County seven years ago and found work at the Toad’s Mobile Express across from the house he shares with a roommate.

“I only knew Russ from giving him coffee in the mornings,” said Eddy, who hasn’t worked at the store for over a year, “but on Saturday afternoon he came over to the house and began yelling nonsense at me. I finally told him he’d have to go, and he went to his car and got out a 16-gauge shotgun. My roommate and I heard the click of him cocking it and we both ran.” The roommate, who declined to give his name, got out of the house and ran across the street to the store from where he said he saw Alton go after Eddy.
“I was running away yelling at him not to kill me,” Eddy continued, “and he hit me in the stomach and then in the right hip so hard I fell. I had to get up again and keep going around the house and he shot again, and then the neighbor lady let me into her place when she heard the commotion.”

The neighbor, Vivian Kleitsch, said she stood up to see what was going on and saw a man “with a shotgun pointed right at me. Brett came running around the house yelling for me to let him in, and of course I had to. He bled something terrible, and went into the back room to hide.”

Kleitsch says the incident has cost her several night’s sleep.
Kleitsch’s kitchen has a white vinyl tile floor, “but there wasn’t a white spot left anywhere on it after Brett came through. He was barefoot and in shorts, but the whole right half of them were shot away.” She said Eddy found a waste basket to prop his feet up to try and do something about the bleeding. “He was in shock, of course,” she said.

Meanwhile, the shooter was pursuing Eddy around the neighbor’s house the other way when he encountered heavy equipment operator Ed Cronk of Maple Falls, excavating next door to Kleitsch’s house. Cronk said he yelled “Where’d he go?”

“About all I could do,” Cronk said, “was stammer for a while, and then I asked him what was going on. He looked around for a while, at Vivian’s front door and then left, going back over to Eddy’s house.”
Both Cronk and Eddy’s roommate said that Alton then kicked in Eddy’s door, looking for the roommate who was still hiding across the street in the store. When the shooter didn’t find anyone in the house, he went back outside and, hearing a siren, leaned up against his car and lit a cigarette.

“We thought the cops were coming then,” said Cheri Clayton, the clerk on duty at Toad’s Mobile Express. “When Brett’s roommate got over here and told me what was going on I called 911, and then we heard sirens.”

The sirens turned out to be an ambulance headed west on Birch Bay-Lynden Road. Clayton said that Alton then got in his car “like nothing had happened” and drove off toward Blaine. Eddy’s roommate followed him at a distance in his car, called 911 and led the Blaine police to the former Geographics parking lot on Odell Road where, the roommate said, “he was just standing there waiting. They said he didn’t give them any trouble, and they found the shotgun tossed in the weeds behind the parking lot.”

Officers began arriving shortly after Alton drove off, and once Kleitsch saw them she told Eddy that he should go out to meet them and ask for medical attention. “He got as far as the fir tree in my front yard and collapsed,” she said, “and then by some miracle an EMT who happened to be driving by and saw him, stopped and helped him until another aid car arrived to take him to the hospital.”

Eddy estimated that all this happened in about 20 minutes. He was discharged from the hospital the next day but has had to return since for continued surgery and skin grafting.

Clayton said that she “knows Russ, all right. My husband knew him years ago when he worked here, too.” She said that some neighbors in the Double R Ranch neighborhood had gotten a petition together to try to get him to move out. “Our manager lives there, and she says it’s nice. But Russ is strange. He’d bring these long letters over for us to read at the store, all about government conspiracies,” Clayton said.
Police reports indicate a history of troubles with the law stretching back into the 1980s, including time spent at Western State Mental Hospital in Sedro Woolley when judged not guilty of malicious mischief by reason of insanity in 1992.

That same year he was arrested by the Bellingham police for fourth and second-degree assault as well as for possession of an explosive device, according to police records.

Alton was taken to the Whatcom County Jail and remains there, bail set at $1 million on suspicion of attempted murder, first-degree burglary and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

“What I really want people to know,” said Eddy, who at press time was back in St. Joseph Hospital for more reconstructive surgery, “is that Vivian and my roommate were both the real heroes, Vivian for opening up her house to a man about to bleed to death and my roommate for following the guy and making sure he was caught.”