Prosecutor outlines charges against Bellingham police officer
A Bellingham Police officer who has a history of alleged domestic violence issues and was arrested for a second time in as many months is facing an additional eight charges — 16 total — related to the repeated abuse of a woman known to him, according to charging documents filed Wednesday in Whatcom County Superior Court.
Cpl. Brooks Owen Laughlin, 33, of Everson was arrested March 27. He is charged with four counts of second-degree assault, three counts of tampering with a witness, three counts of felony harassment, two counts of violation of a no-contact order (domestic violence), one count of felony stalking (domestic violence), one count of felony harassment (domestic violence), one count of first-degree criminal trespass (domestic violence) and one count of harassment.
His arraignment is scheduled for April 6.
Laughlin currently is being held in Skagit County Jail awaiting arraignment and a bail review hearing. Laughlin’s bail was originally set at $200,000.
On March 28, Whatcom County Prosecutor David McEachran argued for Laughlin’s bail to be increased to $1 million. Laughlin’s defense attorney at the time, Doug Hyldahl, objected saying five-day notice wasn’t given, according to court records.
No action was taken, and a new bail review hearing has yet to be set. Until that time, Laughlin will remain in jail.
The abuse of the woman has been occurring since September 2016, according to additional charging documents. Laughlin became increasingly physically aggressive toward the woman and jealous over her past relationships and friendships with males. He would beat her in the head, face, body and call her obscene names, records state.
Laughlin often would straddle the woman and choke or strangle her and repeatedly punch her in the face, head, back, buttocks and rib cage, records state. After the first violent incident, the woman said a blood vessel burst in her eye.
The woman told investigators the abuse was daily and there wasn’t a week that went by where there was not physical violence directed toward her.
During an incident in 2016, Laughlin allegedly slammed the woman’s head into a wall so hard it dented the sheetrock. He also called the woman obscene names one night in front of his three children from a previous marriage, according to records.
In late 2017, Laughlin was upset the woman “had not done anything significant that week to show him she was sorry for causing him pain,” and ended up slamming her head against a bathtub, causing her to lose consciousness and mobility in her arms and legs, records state. The woman ended up fleeing Laughlin’s residence in the 1000 block of Ridge Lane and ran outside naked, screaming for help. The woman told investigators "she realized there was nowhere to go” and returned to the residence.
Laughlin’s children also disclosed the physical abuse of the woman to school counselors, records state.
The woman took photos of the extensive bruising on her buttocks, knees, back and face and provided them to the Everson Police Department. The woman told investigators she used makeup in an attempt to conceal the abuse
In addition to the physical abuse, Laughlin also began isolating the woman and tracking her whereabouts through a GPS app, according to charging documents. She was required to immediately respond to his text messages, and he allegedly used video surveillance to monitor the woman. He made the woman delete her Instagram and Facebook accounts, records state, and he required her to throw away all of her clothes, shoes and personal computer.
He also allegedly tried to separate the woman from her family, and he became increasingly hostile toward them. At one point, Laughlin told the woman he wanted her to kill her family, records state. In another instance during a phone call, Laughlin told the woman he was going to go over to her parent’s house and “take care of them,” records state.
During search warrants served on Laughlin’s home, 31 firearms were found, including three he kept illegally after being arrested the first time on Feb. 10.
Laughlin is the third Bellingham Police officer in as many years to be arrested for alleged assaultive behavior. The records obtained by The Bellingham Herald show Bellingham Police were made aware of Laughlin’s history of behavior in at least January 2017, but some sheriff’s deputies and the woman’s family have had concerns about Laughlin’s conduct since 2015.
The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office is conducting an investigation into the incidents. In addition, an outside independent person identified by the city’s legal office also will be conducting an assessment of the department’s specific policies that would deal with the arrests of two of its officers, and the firing of another.
Laughlin will remain on paid administrative leave, per the Bellingham Police Guild’s collective bargaining agreement with the department.
Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services of Whatcom County resources:
▪ 24 Hour Helpline - 360-715-1563
▪ Administrative Line - 360-671-5714
▪ Email: email@example.com