Bail increased for suspect as new details emerge about Western student’s murder

Bail has been increased to $5 million for a 22-year-old Burlington man who allegedly told police he shot and killed a 22-year-old female Western Washington University student early Wednesday morning in the Happy Valley neighborhood.

Bail was increased from $1 million Thursday, Aug. 15, for Rigoberto Galvan, according to Whatcom County Superior Court documents.

Galvan has been charged with aggravated first-degree murder (domestic violence) and first-degree burglary, according to court records.

In a motion submitted to the court Thursday, Whatcom County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Richey argued that Galvan should be held without bail “because he is a substantial danger to the community” and has a “callous disregard for human life.”

Bail can be denied if a person is facing a capital offense or life in prison for their charges, court records state. The Washington State Supreme Court ruled in October 2018 capital punishment was unconstitutional.

Bellingham police responded at 12:20 a.m. Aug. 14 to an apartment in the 900 block of 20th Street. The first 911 call came from the occupant of the apartment, whom the 22-year-old woman was visiting, court records show.

Galvan allegedly broke in through a second-floor balcony and was armed with a Glock 19 handgun. Galvan told the occupant to “run, because she is going to die,” court records state.

Rigoberto Galvan, 22, of Burlington, right, appears with defense attorney Adrian Madrone in Whatcom County Superior Court Wednesday. He was arrested earlier in the day for suspicion of first-degree murder. He allegedly climbed into an apartment through a window and shot a female victim. Lacey Young The Bellingham Herald

The victim, who has not yet been identified, was seated on a couch in the living room watching television. Galvan allegedly shot the woman in the back 10 times “in what appears to be an execution-style murder,” according to court records.

Galvan unloaded his entire magazine and some stray bullets hit the couch and floor, records state.

Witnesses told investigators that the woman had recently broken up with Galvan.

“Clearly, Mr. Galvan acted with rage as he gunned down his ex-girlfriend. He reacted to the break-up by taking his firearm to confront her and then killing her almost immediately upon breaking into the apartment where she was visiting,” court records state.

After he shot the woman, Galvan allegedly called 911 and told police where they could find him, the gun and the woman. He told the dispatcher “to send as many cops as you can,” records show.

Galvan identified himself to officers, calmly told them “I killed her” and was taken into custody without incident, according to court records.

Bellingham police officers found the woman critically injured by several gunshots, and attempted life-saving efforts but were unsuccessful. She died at the scene.

Western Washington University confirmed that the victim was a student in the school in a letter to students Wednesday.


If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence or sexual assault, you can contact the following local resources for free, confidential support:

▪ Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Services: 24-hour Help Line: 360-715-1563, Email:

▪ Lummi Victims of Crime: 360-312-2015.

▪ Bellingham Police: You can call anonymously at 360-778-8611, or go online at

Western Washington University offered the following resources in a letter to students Wednesday:

▪ The WWU Counseling Center for impacted students — 360-650-3164.

▪ The Employee Assistance Program will help school employees — 877-313-4455.

▪ Consultation and Sexual Assault Support (CASAS) offers confidential support for WWU students who have been impacted by violence — 360-650-3700, in Old Main 585B.

Reporter Denver Pratt joined The Bellingham Herald in 2017 and covers courts and criminal and social justice. She has worked in Montana, Florida and Virginia.