BELLINGHAM - A teenager accused of opening fire on a driver in the Sunnyland neighborhood has been arrested on suspicion of first-degree assault.
A neighbor awoke to the sound of men fighting around 1:40 a.m. Feb. 26 at a home in the 600 block of Kentucky Street. Police believe three men ran outside into an 1980s Honda Accord, said Bellingham Police Lt. Bob Vander Yacht. A fourth man, identified as Lane Scott Phipps, 18, whipped out a semiautomatic handgun and fired about five shots at the fleeing car, according to police. No one was hit.
Detectives recovered several .380-caliber Federal-brand bullet casings from the scene. They later found two bullets struck the passenger's side of the Honda. But the people in the car refused to talk at length with police. So it took extra legwork, Vander Yacht said, to piece together what happened. Even with Phipps identified early on as the suspected shooter, authorities weren't sure if they'd have enough evidence to make an arrest.
"But it's really, really, really not OK to be cracking off gunshots in Bellingham, in a populated area," Vander Yacht said. "I think we owe it to the public."
A stolen bike led police to their suspect Sunday night, March 9. A teenager had locked his Trek bicycle to a fence on Humboldt Street. He went outside around 8 p.m. to find it had gone missing. He looked around and noticed a group of four people, in hoodies, riding bikes along the Samish Way motel strip, toward the Villa Inn, Vander Yacht said. The teen called police once he recognized his $500 bike, with a silver frame, distinctive hand brakes and a red suspension fork.
Police caught up with the group at a room in the Villa. Three of them were wanted for warrants. One of them, Phipps, happened to have a loaded Remington .380-caliber handgun in the breast pocket of his coat, Vander Yacht said. There were two Federal-brand bullets in the gun: one in the chamber, one in the magazine.
Phipps does not have a concealed pistol license. And in Washington state, he can't apply for one until he's 21 years old.
He faces a charge of assault in the first degree in connection with the shots fired at the driver. Police handed in probable cause papers to the prosecutor's office around noon Monday. It's possible more charges could be filed later on behalf of the two other people in the car, though they've been hesitant to work with investigators so far, Vander Yacht said.
The serial number had been scraped off the Remington handgun. Police suspect it's stolen but will need to investigate more, Vander Yacht said.
Court records show Phipps had a warrant out for his arrest, too, because he stopped checking in with his probation officer. Last year he pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of disorderly conduct for stealing syrup, candy and beef jerky from the Sehome Haggen.
Phipps had his 18th birthday on Feb. 22, four days before the shooting. That makes him an adult in the eyes of the law.