Crime

Bellingham robbers get prison for break-in repelled by resident’s pruning shears

Two home-invasion robbers must serve five years in prison for an armed break-in in the Sehome neighborhood that was thwarted when one resident stabbed the men with pruning shears, a Whatcom County judge ruled this week.

Around 3 a.m. July 24, two men with dark bandanas over their faces burst into a split-level home on Newell Street. Three young men were still awake in the living room doing homework and playing video games, according to charging papers filed in Whatcom County Superior Court. The intruders had semiautomatic handguns.

One resident, Christopher Copeland, 21, recognized one of the masked robbers, a young man with a buzz cut, as Matthew Joseph Wright, 21, of Valley, Wash., whom he knew from Western Washington University.

The intruders demanded the residents’ cellphones and wallets. The second suspect — a slightly shorter man, later identified as Anthony Lewis Delgado, 22, of Bellingham — aimed a silver-and-black handgun at the head of one man at close range and ordered him several times to get down on the floor.

Wright shoved one of the men down on a couch, aimed his gun at the man’s head, and demanded his iPhone, according to the charges. The robbers gave similar orders to Copeland, but he didn’t comply fast enough for the robbers’ liking. So Delgado fired a .22-caliber bullet into the ceiling as a warning. A fourth roommate upstairs, Daniel Peterson, heard the gunshot and the scuffle. He locked himself in his room and dialed 911.

The robbers loaded things into a duffle bag. As they started to leave, Copeland grabbed a pair of pruning shears and, in a melee, stabbed Delgado in the shoulder, then slashed at Wright. Another resident, Kevin McShane, 21, was pistol-whipped three times in the head as he helped to repel the robbers. Delgado and Wright left a blood trail to the street as they fled.

Police found two duffel bags left behind at the victims’ home. Inside were long zip ties, duct tape and bleach. According to police, Wright would have known there was a small marijuana grow in the house. The men meant to steal cash and cannabis from the home, Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Eric Richey said.

“And when they got there,” he added, “they didn’t get a whole lot of either.”

Later that morning, Wright and Delgado showed up at Skagit Valley Hospital with fresh wounds from the pruning shears. They claimed they’d been robbed. Around then police “pinged” the stolen iPhone, and its location showed it was at a hospital in Mount Vernon. Police arrested the men. They were stitched up at the hospital, then booked into jail before 10 a.m.

A third alleged accomplice, Corey Marchell Patzer, 24, of Spokane, drove the two men to the hospital, according to charging papers. Patzer has been charged with complicity to three felonies: burglary, robbery and assault, all in the first degree. He’s awaiting trial.

This week charges of burglary and assault were dropped against Wright and Delgado in a plea bargain. They pleaded guilty to first-degree robbery with a deadly weapon on Thursday, April 2, in front of Superior Court Judge Raquel Montoya-Lewis. The judge sentenced both men to five years and five months in prison, as suggested by the plea deal.

Neither man spoke before being sentenced. Neither had a felony record.

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