Villa Inn shooting suspect identified, remains in hospital

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDAugust 30, 2013 

Local law enforcement officers respond to a shooting at the Villa Inn on Samish Way Monday, Aug. 26, 2013 in Bellingham.

MATT MCDONALD — THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

BELLINGHAM - A man suspected of firing a shotgun at Bellingham police officers has been identified as a felon with a history of mental illness.

Alexander Warren Johnson, 54, faces two counts of first-degree assault and one count of felon in possession of a firearm. He still hadn't been charged as of Friday, Aug. 30, because he remained in serious condition at St. Joseph hospital with gunshot wounds to his torso.

Two Bellingham officers drove to Johnson's ground-floor room at Villa Inn, 212 N. Samish Way, on Monday to take him to the hospital for a mental health evaluation. His roommate let the two officers into the room, then left, said Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo.

The policemen - Steven Moyer and Christopher Johnston - saw Johnson behind a makeshift cloth partition that came up to his neck, Elfo said. They told him they needed to take him to the hospital.

From behind the partition, Johnson whipped out a shotgun, without warning, and fired one round, according to the sheriff's office. The officers weren't hit. They returned fire with their Glock sidearms, wounding Johnson. He retreated to the bathroom before calling out for help. Both officers tended to him until paramedics arrived and loaded him into an ambulance.

The sheriff's office has taken over the investigation.

In 2012, Johnson was taken into custody for a mental health hold, Elfo said. Court records show he had a few brushes with the law in the past year: shoplifting and two citations that were dismissed in court. He has no other criminal history in Whatcom County, but has a burglary on his record elsewhere, according to the sheriff's office.

Prosecutors expect to charge him with the shooting once he can be released from hospital and taken to jail. That could be as soon as Tuesday.

Reach Caleb Hutton at 360-715-2276 or caleb.hutton@bellinghamherald.com. Read his Dispatcher blog at bellinghamherald.com/dispatcher-blog or follow him on Twitter at @bhamcrime.

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