Charges: Shotgun blast went between two officers during Samish Way motel shooting


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


BELLINGHAM - Prosecutors have charged a mentally ill man with firing a 12-gauge shotgun at two Bellingham police officers in a Samish Way motel room.

A resident of the Villa Inn, Alex Warren Johnson, 54, had been acting paranoid and "extremely violent" as a mental health worker tried to give him his medication in the early evening of Aug. 26, according to the charges filed by Prosecutor Dave McEachran. She asked police for an emergency pickup order.

Officers Chris Johnston and Steven Moyer rolled up in separate patrol cars to Room 22 on the ground floor of the motel, 212 N. Samish Way. Johnson's roommate let them in. The roommate asked if he could leave, and the officers let him go. Inside they saw Johnson standing behind a blanket that came up to his neck level. They could see his head. They demanded to see his hands. He refused, according to the charges.

"Mr. Johnson appeared to become very angry and was baring his teeth and speaking in a very loud, angry manner," McEachran wrote. "Shortly after the officers had made repeated demands to see Mr. Johnson's hands, he suddenly moved the blanket and confronted the officers with a sawed off shotgun pointed directly at them."

Johnson crouched, with the gun barrel level with the officers' chests, according to charging papers. A shotgun blast shattered the front window of the motel room. The round split the gap between the two officers. Neither policeman was hurt.

Officer Johnston whipped out his Glock sidearm. He returned fire first, then Moyer. Johnson retreated back behind the blanket, into the bathroom. So the officers kept shooting through the wall.

Johnson had been shot several times in the torso. He begged for help, and the officers gave him first aid until paramedics arrived, according to the Whatcom County Sheriff's Office.

Police recovered the 12-gauge shotgun from where it had been dropped, outside of the bathroom.

So far, because of his bullet wounds, Johnson has not been taken to jail or court. McEachran filed charges Friday afternoon, Sept. 6, almost two weeks after the shootout. At that time Johnson remained at St. Joseph hospital.

McEachran charged him with two counts of first-degree assault while armed with a deadly weapon and unlawful possession of a firearm. (A background check revealed Johnson had a burglary conviction from 1981.)

Superior Court Commissioner Alfred L. Heydrich set bail this week at $500,000.

Reach Caleb Hutton at 360-715-2276 or Read his Dispatcher Blog at or follow him on Twitter at @bhamcrime.

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