A Kendall woman with a long history of mental illness has been charged with aiming a .38-caliber handgun at children playing with chalk on the pavement down the street from her home.
Gwyneth Fay Hafstad, 47, parked her maroon Toyota Highlander outside a neighbor’s house at 2:20 p.m. Aug. 28, according to charges filed this week in Whatcom County Superior Court. She handed out chalk to three boys and a girl — ages 3, 5, 8 and 9 — who were playing outside. Hafstad started drawing on the pavement with them, in the 7800 block of Chisholm Trail, about a mile north of Kendall Elementary School.
Moments later she walked back to her SUV and, without warning, grabbed a black-and-silver handgun, according to the charges. Hafstad pointed the gun in the air, then aimed at the children from about 30 or 40 feet away, witnesses reported.
“Get the (expletive) in the house! Get the (expletive) in the house!” Hafstad yelled, according to charging papers. Neighbors heard her pacing in the street saying, “I have a gun! I have a gun!”
Several people called police — including Hafstad.
She told a dispatcher she’d been “surrounded” and “was forced to pull out her gun,” wrote Deputy Prosecutor Christopher Quinn.
Sheriff’s deputies, U.S. Border Patrol agents and police from the cities of Ferndale and Everson rushed to the scene to find a blond woman in a blue dress standing at the corner of Chisholm Trail and Oregon Trail roads.
“I’m the one you’re looking for,” Hafstad said. She was detained.
Deputies got a warrant to search Hafstad’s home on Chisholm Trail. They found a black .38-caliber Walther pistol inside a freezer.
Hafstad was formally charged Tuesday, Sept. 2, with six counts of assault in the second degree, a class B felony. The charges could be boosted to first-degree assault, Quinn said, if further investigation shows Hafstad actually intended to shoot someone.
Superior Court Commissioner Martha Gross set bail at $100,000. Hafstad remained in jail Thursday.
According to a self-reported employment history, Hafstad served in the U.S. Army National Guard before she was honorably discharged in 1993. Two years later she suffered a head injury, she wrote in court papers, and since then she has lived with many well-documented mental and physical disabilities.
“I have an extensive history of mental illness,” Hafstad stated, in recent court paperwork related to a divorce.
She recalled being diagnosed with PTSD due to trauma she experienced as a child; suffering from prednisone toxicity and psychosis because of medicine she was taking (it was misdiagnosed at first, she wrote, as paranoid schizophrenia); undergoing electroshock therapy; and “two, maybe three” involuntary commitments to psychiatric wards.
One of her hospital stays began in 2001, when her then-husband reported she’d loaded a compound bow and taken aim at him in their home. She told him to kneel under a dining room table and handcuff himself, according to his account in the divorce paperwork. Hafstad claimed to have no memory of the incident — she was taking large doses of Ambien and other sleeping pills around that time — but said she’d been told about it years later.
She suffered a second head injury while bicycling in April 2004, when she was hit by a car on Lakeway Drive near Old Woburn Street in Bellingham, leading to long-term “confusion, speech issues, and neck injuries,” according to court papers.
One night, about six years ago, her neighbors called police saying they found her in their fenced backyard, growling and shining a flashlight in their windows. Afterward she voluntarily spent time in two psych wards.
“I’m happy to say that since my release,” Hafstad wrote in 2012, “I have continued to make great strides in my health and have had no further incidents of neighborhood disruptions or bizarre home behavior.”
The charges filed this week don’t weigh in on Hafstad’s state of mind on Aug. 28.
That afternoon, as deputies canvassed the neighborhood, they spoke with two non-English-speaking neighbors on Chisholm Trail who said, through their son, that the same blond woman in a blue dress had been taking pictures outside their home earlier in the day. The residents got into an argument with Hafstad, the charges say, before she reached into her maroon ’04 Toyota, pulled out a pistol, pointed it at them and ordered them to leave, according to the charges.
Then she walked off, in the direction of the kids.