Crime

Deming woman whose son was killed in shootout gets house arrest for buying guns

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 a man wanted on warrants. 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 a man wanted on warrants. It ended with the man dead and one SWAT member wounded. pdwyer@bhamherald.com

A Deming woman must serve three months on house arrest and two years on probation for helping her son acquire guns he used in a shootout with a SWAT team, a U.S. District Court judge ruled Friday in Seattle.

Cecil Chaney Tinker-Smith died in November 2014 when he got into a shootout with Whatcom County sheriff’s deputies at his mother’s home at 5765 Mosquito Lake Road. He was 37.

A federal jury in September found his mother, Jeanne Tinker-Smith, guilty of aiding and abetting a felon – her son – in the possession of a firearm. Cecil Tinker-Smith had been convicted of possessing a half-pound of marijuana in 2006, making it illegal for him to have guns.

His mother, 66, had accompanied him on trips to gun stores five times from August to November 2014, and the day of the standoff, Nov. 16, 2014, she went to a store to buy a Glock handgun, according to federal prosecutors.

That afternoon a neighbor flagged down a sheriff’s deputy because Cecil Tinker-Smith was firing a rifle at the Mosquito Lake Road home in an intimidating way. Deputies knew he had warrants for his arrest for missing court dates on charges of DUI and felony drug possession.

Sheriff’s deputies called out his name and told him to drop the gun. Cecil Tinker-Smith ran into a building, and eventually ended up inside the house. A standoff lasted into the night.

According to the defense, no one told Jeanne Tinker-Smith 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 lied and said 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 home, and pulled back a curtain. Cecil Tinker-Smith fired a shotgun at least twice. One deputy suffered a shrapnel wound to his face, according to the federal trial briefs. Cecil Tinker-Smith was killed when the sheriff’s team returned fire.

Five guns were recovered from the home: a Remington shotgun, a Ruger rifle, a Springfield rifle and two Glock pistols.

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.

In February, however, federal prosecutors charged Jeanne Tinker-Smith with buying the guns for her son. A photo on her son’s phone showed the firearms spread out on a chair. The photo was time-stamped about a week before his death. Authorities found Jeanne Tinker-Smith had started acquiring guns a few months before the shootout.

She claimed she bought the guns as protection from coyotes, though neighbors testified they had no problems with coyotes, according to prosecutors.

“This case is a tragedy, and Tinker-Smith’s loss deserves sympathy,” attorneys for the Department of Justice wrote in a sentencing memorandum. “But Tinker-Smith’s actions were the root cause of this tragedy. Moreover, at every turn, she aggravated the situation.”

Prosecutors suggested a sentence of six months behind bars, plus probation. The defense attorney, Alexander Ransom, countered that the state’s recommendation “is based on the erroneous presumption that Mrs. Tinker-Smith allowed Cecil to access her firearms with some criminal purpose beyond the fact that she knew he was a felon.”

The judge, Robert S. Lasnik, sentenced Jeanne Tinker-Smith to three months on house arrest and two years on probation. She must forfeit the guns and pay a $3,000 fine.

Caleb Hutton: 360-715-2276, @bhamcaleb

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