A man was arrested late Wednesday after police say he allegedly pointed a handgun and shot at a car that hit him.
Gabriel John Vazquez, 37, is charged with first-degree assault while armed with a firearm, second-degree assault while armed with a firearm, unlawful concealment of a handgun without a permit and third-degree malicious mischief, according to charging documents read aloud in Whatcom County Superior Court Thursday.
If convicted, Vazquez could face life in prison.
During his first appearance Thursday, prosecuting attorney Jonathan Richardson said he had concerns that Vazquez was not who he said he was.
Richardson said Vazquez refused to identify himself and only gave a first name, then eventually a last name — making it unknown if he was a convicted felon or not. He also refused to give a date of birth, place of birth or general information about himself used for booking and refused to sign court paperwork based on religious oppositions against signatures.
Richardson said there were no records for a person with the name Vazquez gave or the date of birth he later gave.
“I’m seeing a lot of red flags,” Richardson said. “I have concerns for community safety based on the seriousness of the charges. I also have concerns about the true identity of this person and who it is. Obviously he was charged as Gabriel Vazquez at this point, but I remain skeptical.”
Richardson asked for $500,000 bail.
Public defense attorney Jane Boman said Vazquez had lived in Whatcom County for the last 15 months and had been homeless. Boman said Vazquez has mostly lived in Washington state and asked for him to be released on his personal recognizance because of his lack of ability to afford bail.
Superior Court Commissioner Angela Cuevas said she also had concerns about Vazquez’s identity.
“I am greatly concerned about community safety based on what happened with the handgun and the shooting in public and the fact that we don’t really have a good sense of identification for him at this time,” Cuevas said.
Cuevas set bail at $500,000.
Around 10:45 p.m. Wednesday, Bellingham police responded to a vehicle-pedestrian collision the 3900 block of Meridian Street.
While officers were on their way, they were told the pedestrian displayed a handgun during the incident.
Officers spoke with the pedestrian, who only identified himself by the first name Gabriel — later identified as Gabriel Vazquez — who admitted to having a loaded handgun. Vazquez told officers he did not have a concealed carry license, records state.
The handgun was found in Vazquez’s front waistband. No cartridge was in the chamber, but the magazine was fully inserted and loaded with live cartridges, records state.
Vazquez told investigators he was going east in the crosswalk on the north side of Telegraph Road at Meridian when a northbound vehicle with a male and female from British Columbia inside aggressively braked in front of him.
The driver threw up his hands in disgust because he had a green light and Vazquez was crossing against the signal, records state. Vazquez then positioned a shopping cart he was pushing in front of the vehicle and approached the driver.
Vazquez and the driver exchanged words and Vazquez kicked the driver’s side door, causing damage. The driver got out of the vehicle to examine the damage and continued to verbally fight with Vazquez, records state.
The driver got back in the vehicle and Vazquez approached again. This time, Vazquez put his right hand on his waist and both occupants in the car saw the outline of the handgun, records state. The driver quickly backed up and saw Vazquez pull the handgun out, records state.
The driver rapidly accelerated, causing the rear tires to lose traction and hit Vazquez. Vazquez went across the hood of the vehicle, denting it, records state.
At some point during the incident, a shot was fired. A bullet hole was found in the passenger-side door and muzzle flash was found on the windshield, records state.
Neither occupant realized a shot had been fired until stopping several blocks away to check for damage, records state.
Vazquez told investigators he shot at the vehicle to stop it from hitting him, or that he had already been struck and was lying on his back on the ground when he fired the first shot.
Vazquez said he shot at the passenger side to try to hit the driver to make him stop the vehicle, records state. When asked about endangering the passenger, Vazquez told investigators she also was responsible for trying to hit him, according to the records.
Vazquez said after he was hit, he got up on one knee and pointed his still-loaded handgun down Meridian at the vehicle as it sped away, records state.
Vazquez did not suffer any injuries as a result of the accident, Bellingham police said Friday.
A no-contact order was signed between Vazquez and the two vehicle occupants.
Richardson said Friday he was still unclear about Vazquez’s identity, but said many times jail staff will fingerprint inmates when they're booked, which can help law enforcement and attorneys determine identity.
If a match can’t be found, Richardson said law enforcement would be asked to look into Vazquez’s identity.
As of Friday, the driver had not been cited for hitting Vazquez, but Richardson said the investigation is likely ongoing.