Prosecutor: Fatal shooting of Deming man by SWAT team was justified

A SWAT team was justified in shooting an armed man to death at his home on Mosquito Lake Road five months ago, the Whatcom County Prosecutor’s Office announced Monday, April 13.

Deputies shot Cecil Chaney Tinker-Smith, 37, after a lengthy standoff northeast of Deming that ended in a shootout on Nov. 16.

In the few weeks before the shooting Tinker-Smith’s neighbors had been clearing out blackberry bushes along the property line between the two homes, as they prepared to have the land surveyed. On the day of the shooting, a chilly Sunday afternoon, they were standing outside when Tinker-Smith, who was unhappy about the survey line, drove up to them, got out of his truck with a rifle, and fired six shots into the distance while he looked directly at his neighbors, according to the prosecutor’s office. The neighbors — who had several other recent tense encounters with Tinker-Smith — took this as a threat.

According to County Prosecutor Dave McEachran:

Sheriff’s deputies D.J. Osborn, Rodger Funk and Jarren Van Loo reached the scene around 2 p.m. to arrest Tinker-Smith, who was wanted on two felony warrants, three DUI warrants and, as a convicted felon, would be committing another felony if he had a firearm.

Once the deputies got out of their patrol cars, they heard one loud gunshot. And as they walked up to the house at 5765 Mosquito Lake, they heard two more. The deputies saw Tinker-Smith sitting on the ground near a pickup. They told him to drop the gun and show his hands. Instead he jumped up, holding a rifle, and hid behind the truck. He would not respond to deputies’ orders. Then he ran into a shop on the property, still armed with the rifle. The deputies called for a SWAT team because Tinker-Smith had barricaded himself in the building.

Tinker-Smith’s mother, Jeanne, was inside the house. She dialed 911 at 4:12 p.m. to ask why police were outside her home. Police tried for an hour to get her to come outside. She maintained that her son wasn’t home. Deputies eventually arrested her on suspicion of rendering criminal assistance and making false statements to police.

Tinker-Smith would not come outside. So deputies tried to send a robot into the house to find him and help with communication. Two deputies broke out a sliding glass door in the back of the house, then were met with four shotgun blasts. One of the deputies suffered minor injuries to his face from bullet fragments. As law enforcement took cover, another deputy saw a “dark figure” moving toward the sliding glass door. That deputy fired two shots at him, and the person retreated back into the house.

Around that time, deputies also tried to use pepper spray to get Tinker-Smith to come out. They saw Tinker-Smith leaning out the window. He fired the rifle at them. Deputies returned fire with their patrol rifles. Later the robot was sent in. They found Tinker-Smith dead from a gunshot wound to the head, in the same room where he’d been leaning out the window.

Deputies found evidence scattered throughout the house: four spent shotgun shells in the living room; a Remington shotgun on the ground outside a bedroom window; a loaded Glock pistol in a gun case in Tinker-Smith’s bedroom; a .308-caliber rifle outside a master bedroom; and clips full of .308 ammo near a hidden crawl space.

“It appeared that the guns had been strategically placed by Cecil Tinker-Smith so he would be able to move throughout the house and acquire guns at various positions,” the prosecutor wrote.

McEachran concluded his findings: “The use of deadly force was justifiable in this situation. It was very fortunate that no other officers were injured or killed in this incident.”

Tinker-Smith graduated from Bellingham High School and Whatcom Community College. He’d had many brushes with the law over the course of about a decade, but none in the 1 ½ years leading up to the shooting.

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