Crime

Man sentenced to 38 months in prison for August drive-by shooting on Lakeway Drive

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The man behind an August drive-by shooting on Lakeway Drive was ordered to spend more than three years in prison by a Whatcom County Superior Court judge Wednesday.

Joshua Manuel Abitia, 18, who is described as homeless in court documents, was in the front passenger seat when he fired two shots from a revolver at a car, documents say. No one was injured.

Judge Raquel Montoya-Lewis sentenced him to 38 months in prison for two counts of second-degree assault, third-degree assault and second-degree malicious mischief. He pleaded guilty moments before in the same hearing.

Jacquelyn Azure Elzea, 28, of Bellingham, was driving the car that Abitia shot from, according to charging papers. Montoya-Lewis sentenced her on the same day to 364 days in jail, with 334 days suspended, for rendering criminal assistance in the second degree.

Around 7:50 p.m. on Aug. 30, a woman driving a white Nissan Versa took the southbound exit off Interstate 5 at Lakeway Drive, court records say. As she drove west on Lakeway, she noticed a silver Mistubishi Eclipse driving to her left in the middle lane.

The woman said she recognized both Abitia and Elzea inside the car, and there were two other passengers in the back seat. She later told police she and Abitia are related and accused him of stealing items from her car earlier that day.

As the two cars stopped alongside one another at the intersection of Lakeway Drive, Ellis and Holly streets, occupants of both vehicles began arguing, court records say. Elzea, court records say, told Abitia to get his gun; he pulled a black revolver and aimed it at the woman’s car.

The woman told Abitia she wasn’t afraid. Abitia, court records say, replied, “You’re not afraid, (expletive),” and then shot twice, putting one bullet in each driver-side door. The victim told police Elzea sped away on East Holly Street.

Multiple callers reported the shooting to 911, including the victim, records say. She later drove her car to the police station where officers examined the bullet holes. Police later said the holes were made with .38-caliber bullets.

Abitia and Elzea were arrested the next day, Aug. 31, at about 8 p.m., after an afternoon standoff with the Whatcom County sheriff’s SWAT team and negotiators at a Cedarville Road trailer park. No shots were fired and no one was hurt in the standoff, Undersheriff Jeff Parks said at the time.

“A little prodding was necessary,” Parks said. “A distraction device was deployed, which causes a loud explosive noise.”

Abitia was the last to come out of the house, after Elzea and Katherine Abitia – one of the backseat passengers at the time of the shooting. Katherine Abitia was arrested, but her case was later dismissed. A fourth person at the home was not arrested.

Police did not find the black revolver in the house, Bellingham police Lt. Bob Vander Yacht said at the time.

Joshua Abitia, Vander Yacht added, was suspected of having gang ties, but the shooting likely stemmed from a family dispute over the items reportedly stolen from the victim’s car.

Kyle Mittan: 360-756-2803, @KyleMittan

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