Crime

Deming mom guilty of buying guns for son killed in shootout, federal jury finds

Bellingham Police investigate the scene at 5765 Mosquito Lake Road east of Deming, Nov. 17, 2014, after the Whatcom County Sheriff's SWAT team got into a shootout with Cecil Chaney Tinker-Smith. It ended with the man dead and one SWAT member wounded.
Bellingham Police investigate the scene at 5765 Mosquito Lake Road east of Deming, Nov. 17, 2014, after the Whatcom County Sheriff's SWAT team got into a shootout with Cecil Chaney Tinker-Smith. It ended with the man dead and one SWAT member wounded. THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

A federal jury found a Deming woman guilty Friday, Sept. 9, of providing guns for her son, a felon, who died in a shootout with Whatcom County sheriff’s deputies two years ago.

A neighbor flagged down a sheriff’s deputy on Nov. 16, 2014, because Cecil Chaney Tinker-Smith, 37, was firing off rounds from a gun at 5765 Mosquito Lake Road. The neighbor thought Tinker-Smith was trying to intimidate him.

Deputies drove to the home and saw Tinker-Smith firing a rifle. He had one felony on his record, for driving around with a half-pound of marijuana in 2006. Deputies tried to arrest him on suspicion of being a felon in possession of a firearm and on warrants for missing court dates related to DUI and felony drug possession.

However, once they called his name and told him to drop the gun, Tinker-Smith ran into a building and eventually ended up in the house. A massive law enforcement response followed, from a SWAT team to an armored vehicle. A U.S. border helicopter hovered overhead.

Tinker-Smith’s mother, Jeanne, 64, a retired accounting coordinator with City of Bellingham Public Works, called police from inside the house around 4 p.m.

According to the defense, no one told her why the police were there, so she believed the cops were raiding her medical marijuana plants. About an hour later she reluctantly exited the house. She insisted her son was not inside, although she had just spoken with him. Deputies did not believe her.

Around 6:45 p.m., a four-person tactical team shattered a sliding glass door of the house and pulled back a curtain. Cecil Tinker-Smith fired a shotgun at least twice, leaving one deputy with a minor shrapnel wound to his face, according to the federal trial briefs. Cecil Tinker-Smith was killed when the team returned gunfire.

Five guns – a Remington shotgun, a Ruger rifle, a Springfield rifle, and two Glock pistols – were recovered from the home. That night deputies arrested Jeanne Tinker-Smith, who had no criminal record, to face a charge of making false statements to a public servant. She was acquitted after a state trial in Whatcom County in 2015.

Then in February, federal prosecutors accused Jeanne Tinker-Smith of buying the guns for her son in the weeks and months before the standoff. A photo on Cecil’s phone showed the guns spread out on a chair. The photo was time-stamped about a week before his death, according to court papers.

Authorities later found Jeanne Tinker-Smith had started acquiring guns a few months before the shootout, and in November her son accompanied her on several visits to a local gun shop.

Jeanne Tinker-Smith was charged in U.S. District Court in Seattle with aiding and abetting a felon in possession of a firearm.

A private Bellingham attorney, Alexander Ransom, outlined the defense’s case in court records: Jeanne Tinker-Smith, who had recently joined a shotgun club for skeet shooting, bought the guns for herself for home protection. She brought her son with her to the gun shop, Ransom wrote, because she felt more confident having a man beside her when making that kind of a purchase.

A three-day trial opened and ended this week. Jurors deliberated for most of two days, returning a verdict of guilty at 2:50 p.m. Friday, according to court records.

“We’re still kind of blown away,” Ransom said. “This is very heart-wrenching for Jeanne. It’s a constant reminder of her son’s death.”

Ransom said he is unsure if he will appeal. A sentencing date has been set for Dec. 9.

Caleb Hutton: 360-715-2276, @bhamcaleb

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