Ferndale man gets probation for ramming cop cars while having psychotic episode

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDOctober 5, 2013 

BELLINGHAM - A man accused of ramming three police cruisers during a low-speed car chase through Bellingham will spend two years on probation, but no more time in jail, because he was having a psychotic episode.

Brandan Jayson Santamarina, 21, of Ferndale, drove a green Volvo over a curb near Bellis Fair mall in plain view of a police officer on the afternoon of Sept. 20, 2012, but he wouldn't pull over, according to charges filed in Whatcom County Superior Court.

The driver slowly led police to a state Department of Licensing office, where he did a loop in the parking lot while flashing a peace sign out the window. He headed back toward Bakerview Road. Motorcycle cops and squad cars flipped on their lights and sirens as they joined in the chase. Court records show he drove into oncoming lanes to go around stopped cars. Santamarina rammed a sergeant's SUV twice near the Olive Garden parking lot, disabling it, according to police.

Spike strips flattened his tires near Kmart but he made it into the Sunset Square parking lot, where he rammed two more patrol cars.

Santamarina kept the chase under 35 mph.

Blood tests found no trace of drugs or alcohol in his system.

After he got booked into jail, he peeled a protective coating from the walls of a "drunk tank," Cell No. 126, according to charging papers. Repairs were estimated at $1,000. For that, he was charged with second-degree malicious mischief.

In the preceding months he'd been having hallucinations that a forensic psychologist attributed to schizophrenia. It's not clear if his use of marijuana and DMT, a strong hallucinogenic, exacerbated his problems, according to court records. He spent several months at Western State Hospital in Pierce County.

Deputy Prosecutor Eric Richey and Public Defender Darrin Hall agreed to a deferred prosecution in both cases, meaning if Santamarina stays out of trouble for the next two years, all eight felony charges will be dropped. Since February, he has been out on $20,000 bail, taking prescribed medications and doing well, thanks to support from his parents, Hall said.

It would have been easy, Richey said, to prove Santamarina led police on the chase.

"But what was in his head was not so clear," the prosecutor said. "We have a real problem showing the intent to commit a crime when someone's having a psychotic episode."

Santamarina pleaded guilty Thursday, Oct. 2, to reckless driving. He had no felony history. As part of the plea deal, he agrees to pay restitution for the damage to the police cars. The exact amount hasn't been set.

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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