An Alaska man faces a drive-by shooting charge for firing a high-powered rifle into the water at Birch Bay State Park, in the direction of houses about 2 miles across the bay.
Whatcom County Sheriff’s deputies were called to the park around 8:25 a.m. Thursday for a report of stolen firewood. On their way to the park, a witness reported shots were fired.
Deputies arrived to find Derek Thomas Witt had driven his truck to the beach, gotten out, and started shooting a 7.62 mm caliber AK-47-style rifle into the water, said Undersheriff Jeff Parks. Due to the shape of the bay Witt would have been aiming in the direction of Birch Bay Village, about 2 miles north, a witness told deputies.
A semiautomatic Century Arms rifle and the firewood were found in Witt’s truck. Witt, 39, was arrested on suspicion of drive-by shooting and misdemeanor theft.
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State law gives a fairly loose definition for a drive-by shooting, a class B felony: shooting a gun “in a manner which creates a substantial risk of death or serious physical injury,” when the gun is fired “either from a motor vehicle or from the immediate area of a motor vehicle that was used to transport the shooter or the firearm, or both, to the scene of the discharge.”
Witt, a carpenter, had been staying in northwest Washington with a friend, said a deputy public defender in court Friday afternoon.
Superior Court Commissioner Pamela Englett asked Witt if he understood the meaning of the drive-by shooting charge he’s accused of. Witt said he did not. A public defender took about 30 seconds to explain the law to him, and the commissioner asked again: “Do you understand the nature of those charges?”
“No,” Witt said.
A deputy prosecutor offered to read the alleged facts to him. After hearing the charges, Witt reluctantly said he understood. He has no felony record.
Englett set bail at $10,000.