Police: Bellingham man goes on stabbing spree at vet clinics after his cat dies

Police arrested a man accused of stabbing employees at two Bellingham veterinary clinics Thursday, Oct. 9, because he was upset over the death of his cat.

Charles Anthony Smith, 57, of Bellingham, blamed veterinarians for the cat’s deteriorating health and eventual death, said Bellingham Detective Sgt. Mike Scanlon. The cat was briefly treated at Fountain Veterinary Hospital for urinary tract problems about a month ago. Smith learned another clinic in town, Maplewood Animal Hospital, specializes in urinary problems so he started taking the cat there. Then, earlier this week, the cat died, Scanlon said.

Smith walked into the animal hospital at 2869 W. Maplewood Ave., around 8:15 a.m. Thursday. He whipped out a steak knife and stabbed at one of the veterinarians, a woman in her 20s, Scanlon said. She suffered a cut to one of her thumbs and a small wound to her upper chest but didn’t need emergency treatment. The vet tore the knife away from Smith and escaped to the back of the building.

Smith pulled out a second knife, Scanlon said, and brandished it at front desk workers as he fled the building, shouting something to the effect of, “You need to leave!”

He hopped into his white pickup and drove off. About 10 minutes later, the same white truck rolled up to the other clinic at 2430 Meridian St. in the Fountain District. Smith walked inside Fountain Veterinary Hospital and, without saying a word, stabbed one of the employees in the neck, according to police. The puncture wound, just above the woman's collarbone, near her trachea, wasn’t critical. Someone called 911. By the time police arrived, Smith had driven away again.

Police phoned vet clinics throughout the city, warning them of the stabbing spree, as they searched for Smith or his pickup.

An officer pulled over the westbound truck at 8:44 a.m. at East Bakerview and James Street roads. Smith surrendered. He confessed to the stabbings, police said, and claimed he’d been on his way to the police station to turn himself in.

“He decided the (doctors) were either at fault, or they needed to to pay for it, for lack of a better way of saying it,” Scanlon said.

Officers expect to get a search warrant for the truck. Whatcom Humane Society confiscated two orange male kittens, one black-and-white female adult cat and seven parakeets from Smith’s home, an RV parked in the 5200 block of Guide Meridian.

Smith faces two counts of assault in the first degree and two counts of illegal possession of a dangerous weapon. Court records suggest he’s had past brushes with the law, such as driving offenses, but he has no recent felony convictions in Washington state.