Newspaper photo helps nab Bellingham man who pulled knife on car prowling witness

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDNovember 14, 2013 

Bellingham police sweep downtown

Police officers Eric Osterkamp and Jon Knutson arrest Zachary James Stilts for loitering in the Central Business District on Tuesday, Aug. 20th, 2013. Police swept downtown Bellingham for people committing minor crimes in an effort to make the street "more family friendly," said Bellingham Police officer Osterkamp.

MATT MCDONALD — THE BELLINGHAM HERALD Buy Photo

BELLINGHAM - A car prowler will spend 15 months in prison after a Good Samaritan he threatened to "cut" in downtown Bellingham recognized him months later, when his attacker's photo ran on the front page of The Bellingham Herald.

In the late afternoon of May 13, 2013, a young man reached into an open window of a red Ford Focus parked in the 1300 block of North State Street. Russ Kendall, who had parked in front of the Focus, looked in his rear-view mirror and saw the car prowler looting a backpack from inside and walking away.

According to a post he wrote on Facebook, Kendall tried to get attention from bystanders by shouting, "Hey, how about you put back the stuff you just took out of that car!"

Kendall followed the man to the corner of North State and East Holly, where the man flashed a knife and said, "You wanna get cut?" according to charging papers filed in Whatcom County Superior Court.

The man chased him. Kendall retreated, and the suspected ran off. Police didn't catch him.

In August, The Herald ran a story about a police sweep of known troublemakers in downtown Bellingham. One of the arrestees was Zachary J. Stilts, 22, a transient man taken to jail for multiple sitting-on-the-sidewalk violations. A photo of Stilts, in a basketball jersey and a cocked gray-and-yellow baseball cap, ran in the newspaper.

Kendall called police saying that was the man who attacked him. He and his son picked out Stilts' photo from a lineup.

Stilts pleaded guilty Thursday, Nov. 14, to second-degree assault. Judge Deborra Garrett approved a plea bargain that will put him behind bars for 15 months.

Stilts had three felonies on his record - for drug crimes, first-degree theft and forgery - and a multitude of misdemeanors for shoplifting, theft, minor in possession of alcohol, malicious mischief, hit and run of unattended property, trespassing and possession of a dangerous weapon.

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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