One man was arrested and the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office is working to identify a second after the duo allegedly assaulted an acquaintance, took his coat and wallet and dragged him for approximately a half mile from a car along Bennett Drive west of Bellingham last month.
The Bellingham Police Department arrested Gabriel Jesus Veliz Jr. on a Sheriff’s Office warrant and he was booked into Whatcom County Jail on suspicion of first-degree robbery, second-degree assault and third-degree theft. Bellingham police also had an outstanding warrant for Veliz for shoplifting.
According to information provided by Chief Criminal Deputy Doug Chadwick in an email Monday to The Bellingham Herald, numerous deputies were dispatched at approximately 5:07 p.m. Dec. 21 to the 3100 block of Bennett Drive for the report of a man being dragged behind a vehicle after an apparent fight. Deputies located the victim on Bennett Drive near Cottonwood Avenue.
The victim reportedly told deputies that an acquaintance, who identified himself as Gabriel Hernandez but was actually Veliz, invited him to go to a store in a vehicle driven by another man and accompanied by Veliz’s girlfriend. When they arrived, Veliz demanded money from the victim, who refused.
Veliz reportedly punched the victim on the right side of the face, then he and the second man continued to beat the victim and tore off his coat, which had his wallet and $300 in cash in it, before getting back into the vehicle and driving off, police said.
The victim tried to get his coat back from Veliz, who was in the front passenger seat, but Veliz reportedly held the victim by his neck and continued to punch him as the vehicle drove northbound on Bennett Drive, despite the victim yelling for it to stop.
The victim told deputies that he felt the vehicle swerve repeatedly as if the driver was attempting to run him into parked cars or other objects. A witness who tried to break up the fight and then followed the car as it dragged the victim reported the same thing.
After approximately a half mile, the victim fell free from the vehicle but he suffered several injuries, including a broken facial bone, a deep wound to his left foot and road rash over much of his back and other parts of his body.
On Jan. 10, the victim reportedly identified the man he knew as “Hernandez” as Veliz from a photo lineup. He also reportedly showed deputies the Facebook page of Veliz’s girlfriend, which also contained a picture of Veliz.
Deputies requested Bellingham police look for Veliz at a Bellingham residence, where they located him and took him into custody.
According to court records, Veliz has Whatcom County convictions for taking a vehicle without permission, possession of a controlled substance, second-degree trafficking and third-degree theft between 2013 and 2018.