August 29, 2014

Babysitter and accomplices arrested for false report of home invasion robbery.

At approx. 1619 hours on June 18th 2014 a babysitter called 911 to report that two males had forced their way into the home where she was watching two young children. She stated that she fled the home with the children when she was ordered to leave by the suspects. She called 911 from a neighbor’s home.

The babysitter described the suspects as two black males, dressed in dark clothing, both 20 to 30 years old and very tall. She stated that both were very tall and that one had a knife and the other appeared to have a firearm which she saw partially protruding from one of the backpacks.

As the initial report described armed individuals that forced their way into an occupied residence, numerous deputies, to include Special Response Team members, responded to the scene to secure the area and locate the suspects. At one point it was believed that the suspects might have barricaded themselves in the victim home, which was later successfully cleared and no one was found inside. A Customs and Border Protection Helicopter also provided aerial surveillance and security for the perimeter units.

The reporting babysitter provided a statement to detectives describing the home invasion by unknown suspects, but eventually admitted under questioning that she was involved in the plan to steal valuables from the home and in fact had two accomplices. She had contributed a list of items that she wanted from the home as well. Detectives were able to learn the identity of the accomplices and their probable whereabouts. One of the accomplices is the babysitter’s boyfriend.

Detectives then contacted two white males leaving the area of the Shamrock Motel near W. Bakerview Road in Bellingham in a vehicle. The males were identified as Reuben Benjamin and a 16 year old passenger, who is the boyfriend of the reporting babysitter.

Both subjects admitted to going to the victim residence and taking property from the home. All property stolen was located a recovered. The property is estimated to be valued at $1500.00 and includes laptop computers, game system components, a piggy bank and other items.

Three subjects were arrested, including the reporting party who is a juvenile her name and the boyfriend’s name are not being released due their status as juveniles. They are both Bellingham residents living in the 4100 Block of W. Maplewood Avenue.

The adult arrested is: Ruben J. Benjamin, 5/22/1996, living at 4133 W. Maplewood Ave, Bellingham.

Charges pending are: Robbery 2nd, Theft 2nd, Conspiracy to commit Robbery, and Perjury 2nd (false report and statement).

Information on Safety Patrols for the Nooksack River Tubing Season 2014

JOINT PRESS RELEASE – Whatcom County Executive Jack Louws and Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo
NOOKSACK RIVER TUBING ENFORCEMENT EFFORTS FOR THE 2014 SEASON

Monday, April 28

The recreational tubing season is fast approaching and the Sheriff’s Office and County Government would like to provide notice to the public that criminal activity associated with tubing on the Nooksack River will be met with enhanced patrols and stricter enforcement during the 2014 summer season. The primary focus of the patrols will be the stretch of the Nooksack from the Mt. Baker Hwy (SR 542) to Acme.

County Executive Jack Louws, last year, committed to additional overtime funding to support a multi-year proactive enforcement strategy for the South Fork of the Nooksack. The County Executive, Sheriff’s Office and the Public Works Department continue to work on ways to address the concerns of local residents in the interest of safe and legal access to this recreational area. Public Works staff will soon install signs on Potter and Strand roads as well as at the old campground in Acme notifying tubers to please park legally, pick up litter, do not trespass, and respect residents.

The Sheriff’s Office has, in past years, responded to increased complaints associated with tubers during the months of June through August. These calls included a gamut of issues from trespassing, littering, minors consuming alcohol, open containers of alcohol, public indecency, disorderly conduct, driving under the influence or driving recklessly to parking and other traffic violations.

In 2013, over 500 people were contacted and approximately 220 people were provided a verbal warning and educated on the laws as they related to recreational use of the Nooksack River. Additionally, deputies arrested 61 people for alcohol violations, as well as five for driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs; 22 people were arrested for criminal trespassing. There were 75 citations and infractions issued for parking violations.

Those who plan to enjoy recreation on or along the Nooksack need to be cognizant of the applicable laws and be respectful of private property. Due to several points of public access to the river, it is considered a public place. In accordance with RCW 66.44.100, open container and consumption of alcohol is not permitted in public areas.

With regard to illegal parking, vehicles found to be blocking the travel portions of county roadways will be towed at the owner’s expense, in addition to receiving a ticket. Drivers need to pay attention to posted county signs designating where vehicles may and may not park. It is essential that roadways be kept clear so delivery of emergency vehicles and resources for those in need can be maintained.

Contact: Chief Criminal Deputy Doug Chadwick, 360 676 6650

Sheriff’s Office looking for owner of stolen firearms

The Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office is requesting the public’s assistance in locating the owner of a gun collection that is believed to be stolen.

Detectives would like to determine who the owner (or owners) may be of nearly fifty stolen rifles recently recovered from a residence on Old Marine Drive, Bellingham WA. The rifles appear to be a collection, with most manufactured between the late 1800s and during the World War II era. Countries of origin include France, Germany, Italy, Austria, Egypt, and the United States.

On February 19, 2014, at about 9:30 PM, the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office responded to a reported Domestic Violence call in the 1100 block of Old Marine Drive, Bellingham, Washington. During the course of that investigation, deputies discovered a large “job box” normally used for storing tools, filled with firearms. Information gathered at the scene led deputies to believe that the firearms were stolen. Deputies took the firearms and they are being held for safe keeping pending further investigation.

Additional information developed during the investigation suggests the guns were stolen from “the valley” (this may be Sudden Valley) sometime within the last few months, though none of the guns appear to have been reported stolen, and there are no local law enforcement cases involving similar guns. Anyone with information is requested to contact the Sheriff’s Office Detectives at 360-676-6650, reference case number 14A03306.

Information may also be left on our confidential tip line at:
(360) 715-7459 or toll free 1-866-456-2157

Another Serial Burglar Investigated and Arrested

A prolific burglar, thief and previously convicted felon was arrested by Sheriff’s Deputies for a series of burglaries and thefts that occurred in unincorporated Whatcom County and the City of Ferndale. Deputies did not need to look too far for the suspect as he was already incarcerated in the Whatcom County Jail on burglary and theft charges in relation to crimes that occurred last December.

The Sheriff’s Office received a series of reports of burglaries and thefts that occurred in the areas of Ferndale and Lynden. Sheriff’s deputies arrested Kevin Gorsuch (date of birth 5-23-86) who most recently was living in the 6800 block of Enterprise Road (Ferndale) for a burglary that had occurred in December 2013 at Veenhuizen Farms in the 1600 block of East Pole Road (Lynden) and for a theft that occurred in December 2013 in the 2100 block of Harskell Road (Ferndale). Deputies continued their investigation and linked Gorsuch to other crimes that occurred in the north county during between late 2013 and early 2014.

Multiple interviews were conducted and evidence collected that lead to the development of probable cause for the arrest of Gorsuch for additional crimes that occurred both in unincorporated Whatcom County and the City of Ferndale. Deputies arrested Gorsuch in the County Jail. It is suspected that Gorsuch may have been involved in other area burglaries and thefts and the investigation is continuing.

Gorsuch was arrested on February 20th for the following burglaries and thefts:

Burglary 2nd in the 6800 block of Enterprise Road. Kevin Gorsuch admitted he made entry into an unlocked shop and took welding leads.

Burglary 2nd in the 6900 block of Salashan Parkway. Kevin Gorsuch admitted to opening a window to the business but said he left without taking anything.

Burglary 1st, Theft of a Firearm – 3 counts, Unlawful Possession of a Firearm – 3 counts, Trafficking Stolen Property- 3 counts in the 5400 block of Aldrich Road, a residence and barn. Kevin Gorsuch denied taking the firearms, but admitted to being in possession of 2 of them and to trafficking them. An accomplice reported dropping Kevin Gorsuch off in this location and later picking him up when he had 3 or 4 firearms. All 3 firearms that were reported stolen have been recovered.

Vehicle Prowl in the 5500 block of Hovander Road. A utility trailer parked behind a building under construction was prowled and rolls of wire were stolen.

Burglary 2nd in the 7400 block of Enterprise Road. Kevin Gorsuch admitted to stealing Stihl chainsaw from a shed located near the residence.

Theft 3rd, Malicious Mischief 3rd in the 7400 block of Enterprise Road. Kevin Gorsuch admitted to cutting an electrical cord from a residence and later stripping it for the copper.

Burglary 2nd (Ferndale PD case) in the 5000 block of Pacific Hwy. A business was burglarized and power tools were stolen. Gorsuch was identified by a witness.

Gorsuch was previously arrested by the Whatcom Sheriff’s Office on March 29, 2013 on a felony theft charge and was convicted of the same on April 25, 2013. He was sentenced by the Superior Court on these previous offenses to six months in Jail.

Local Elected Officials Attend Emergency Management Training

Disasters like Hurricane Katrina have shown us what happens to local communities when their local officials are not up to the task of governance during extreme events. Here in Whatcom County numerous newly elected officials are participating today in training that will ensure that they have the skills needed to assist their jurisdictions during a disaster.

Whatcom Unified Emergency Management is instructing an Emergency Operations for Elected Officials/ Chief Administrators today at 2-4PM, and another class from 6-8PM, in Bellingham. This two hour session helps to orient current and newly appointed/ elected civic officials to their role during emergency incidents. The elected officials who have committed to participate in the training will leave the course with the basic skills needed to lead and effectively assist their constituents in times of disaster.

Officials from Whatcom County, Port of Bellingham, City of Bellingham, City of Ferndale, Cemetery District 7, Columbia Valley Water District, Lynden School District, Columbia Valley Water District, City of Lynden, and the South Whatcom Fire Authority will be participating.

Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office assists with locating missing Alzheimer’s Patient

Missing elderly man safely located with aid of technology
Posted: February 13, 2014 1:51:26 PM PST

Bellingham (WA) On February 7, 2014 at about 4:20 p.m. the Bellingham Police responded to a report of a missing 71 year old male from Columbia Place Retirement Center. The male subject walked away from the facility against the wishes of facility staff who stated he was not capable of caring for himself.
This elderly man was wearing a “Project Lifesaver” radio tracking device, which is a specially equipped bracelet. Project Lifesaver was introduced in Whatcom County in 2008 as a partnership between the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) and the Alzheimer’s Society of Washington.
The missing man was located at about 8:30 p.m. because of the Project Lifesaver equipment. A deputy with a receiving unit traced the signal to the area of Champion and Holly Streets. The man was physically okay but disoriented. Considering that the low temperature on this day was nearly 20 degrees it was critical that this man be located a quickly as possible.

According to WCSO Sergeant Scott Huso, Search and Rescue Deputies along with several trained Search and Rescue Volunteers maintain several receivers which track the transmitter signal and aid in the search. On a national scale, searches that used to last hours have been reduced to an average of about 20 minutes for those that are wearing the transmitter.

Utilizing WCSO Search and Rescue experts for urban searches is an excellent example of the collaborative nature of local law enforcement. Through sharing resources all of our local agencies are able to provide excellent service to our citizens while being fiscally responsible. It would not be cost effective for every local agency to maintain a search and rescue element. Another example of this is the Bellingham Police Hazardous Devices Unit (bomb squad), which is staffed and maintained by BPD but made available to all jurisdictions in Whatcom County.

Caregivers and family members are able to enroll clients in the Project Lifesaver program through the Alzheimer’s Society for a nominal fee. If there are additional questions on how to enroll a potential client into Project Lifesaver please contact the Alzheimer Society of Washington at (360) 671-3316.
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Whatcom County puts 60-day moratorium on pot business applications

BELLINGHAM — The Whatcom County Council passed an emergency ordinance Tuesday night that places an immediate moratorium on any new applications for marijuana producers, processors and retailers under the state’s pot legalization Initiative 502 and also for medical marijuana facilities.

potrules2The moratorium, passed unanimously by the County Council, will stay in effect for 60 days — and could be extended — to allow time for the county executive’s staff, the sheriff’s office and the prosecutor’s office to produce an interim ordinance for council review and approval, County Executive Jack Louws said.

The moratorium was needed, Louws said, for the following reasons outlined in the ordinance:

“Marijuana related operations are vulnerable to robbery and crimes of violence, as evidenced by the actual robberies and violence that have occurred at state legal marijuana medical sites within Whatcom County and elsewhere. The current requirements for locating a proposed marijuana facility do not specifically address the potential risks that these operations pose for surrounding residences, including those residences within isolated communities with limited police protection.

“It is necessary to have this moratorium take effect immediately in order to prevent future applications for marijuana producers, processors, retailers, and collective gardens from vesting under current laws and thus subverting the purpose of additional regulations to protect the public,” it said.

Louws said Whatcom County began receiving notifications of proposed marijuana facilities from the Washington State Liquor Control Board in mid-December and has been informed that licenses are to be issued as early as late this month or early March.

Read more: http://q13fox.com/2014/02/11/whatcom-county-puts-60-day-moratorium-on-pot-business-applications/#ixzz2t8DsEObs

Serial Burglar Captured in Geneva Neighborhood

On Friday, February 7th at approximately 12:14 p.m. a resident in the 1500 block of Lakewood Lane (Geneva area) reported that a male suspect had pounded on her door and then attempted to open the doors and windows to her home. The resident was able to provide law enforcement with a good description of the suspect, his vehicle and direction of travel as he left the area.

Subsequently, the Sheriff’s Office received multiple reports of other residential burglaries that had occurred in the area including three additional residences on Lakewood Lane and the 1500 block of Geneva Street (total of four burglaries and one attempted burglary). One of the residents on Lakewood Lane whose home was burglarized came home to find the front door ajar and the suspect in her home. The suspect fled her home and she was able to provide a description similar to that provided by the other neighbor.

Items stolen during the course of burglaries included jewelry, computer equipment, United States and Canadian currency, prescription drugs, checks, and a credit card. Deputies located the vehicle that had fled the burglaries in the 4300 block of Columbus Street. Some tems believed to have been stolen in the burglary were located in the vehicle and in the residence following the execution of a search warrant.

A United States Department of Homeland Security Helicopter and Canine teams from the Sheriff’s Office assisted by canine teams from the Bellingham and Everett Police Departments initiated a search for the suspect. A Bellingham Police Canine team located Michael Johnsen hiding in a wooded area near the intersection of Parkstone and Overlook Drives. Deputies were able to match patterns on Johnsen’s foot ware with foot impressions left in the snow at the scene of the burglaries. Johnsen also closely matched the description provided by witnesses and was positively identified.

The suspect, Michael Johnsen dob 9/6/1978, was arrested and booked into the Whatcom County Jail on the following charges:
1) Attempted Residential Burglary (one count)
2) Residential Burglary (four counts)
3) Theft in the 2nd degree (two counts).
Johnsen is being referred to the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office for consideration of filing additional theft charges. Deputies will also be investigating to determine what other crimes Johnsen may have been committed in Whatcom County.

Deputies discovered that Johnsen was also wanted by the Washington State Department of Corrections for Escape. Johnsen was also arrested on the Department of Corrections warrant.

Sheriff Elfo said: “Alert citizens were instrumental in assisting law enforcement in solving Mr. Johnsen’s latest string of burglaries. Johnsen is a career criminal and a prolific burglar with a long and repeated history of victimizing the citizens of Whatcom County. He was previously arrested by the Sheriff’s Office for a string of burglaries in the central area of the County in 2008 and was subsequently sentenced to 7 years in prison. Prison officials released him July of 2103 to an out-of-custody program and he did not serve his entire sentence. Prior to Friday’s crimes, Mr. Johnsen had accumulated at total of 11 adult felony convictions for crimes including burglary, theft, escape, possession of stolen property as well as 12 adult gross misdemeanor convictions for vehicle prowling, reckless endangerment, possession of stolen property and drug related offenses and a series of other offenses including bail jumping. We are very pleased that he is off the streets.”

Homicide Suspect from Texas Living in Whatcom County Apprehended

On January 16th, 2014 the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office was contacted by Officials from Van Zandt County Sheriff’s Office in Texas regarding a suspect in a 2009 homicide case under investigation there, who they believed may be in custody in the Whatcom County Jail. The suspect, Billy Michael Dupree, 59 years of age had been in custody serving time on a commitment for harassment and assault 4th degree. He was released the evening of January 13, 2014.

WCSO Detectives placed Dupree’s residence under surveillance and determined that he had boarded a WTA bus. Dupree was apprehended without incident when he departed the bus in downtown Bellingham. He was booked into the Whatcom County Jail at 1420 hours, and is scheduled to appear in court tomorrow.

The Warrant, issued today by a Van Zandt County Magistrate lists the charge of Murder, 19.02(b)(1) Felony of the First Degree.

It is believed that Dupree has lived in Whatcom County for the last several years and has been booked into the Whatcom County Jail for arrests that occurred in 2012, 2013 and on this date. He has a number of arrests and criminal convictions on his record, the most serious of which is a 15 year sentence for Aggravated Robbery out of Dallas Texas.

Detectives will be working with Van Zandt County Sheriff’s Office regarding the 2009 investigation and with the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office to determine extradition.

http://www.whatcomcountysheriff.org/2014/01/17/700/

Guest Editorial to Local Media – October 19, 2013

As Whatcom County seeks citizen input on the proposed 521-inmate jail, it is important to highlight the process used to determine the size of the facility and measures taken to offer alternatives and reduce the growth of future jail needs.

After nearly two years of research, community input and consultation with national experts, the 13-member Council-created Jail Planning Task Force unanimously reported on “critical life-safety” issues requiring that the jail be replaced; concluded that a 500-700 inmate facility operating at 80-85% of its design-capacity was needed; emphasized including space for expanding mental health, educational/ vocational/work programs; highlighted the need to plan for future long-term expansion; and recommended that the County retain a jail planner to refine projections and facilitate recommendations.

The County hired a leading jail planning firm who assessed that Whatcom County needs a jail to accommodate 521 inmates with a long-term expansion capacity to 649 inmates. It further recommended the inclusion of space for all of the educational/mental health programming recommended by the Task Force.
Despite legislation that continually shifts responsibility for housing felons from state prisons to county jails and that mandates arrests and sets minimum sentencing requirements for misdemeanor offenses (primarily domestic violence/ DUI), components of our local law and justice system implemented programs that successfully reduced the growth in our jail population and lowered previous projections on jail capacity needs.

The Prosecutor’s “Fast-Track” program expedited the process of bringing felony cases before the courts and contributed to reducing the average length of pre-trial detentions from 26 to 20 days. Drug court offer eligible offenders the option of treatment rather than incarceration.

District Court Probation has enjoyed phenomenal success with mental health specialists that work with the mentally ill (including veterans suffering PTSD) who otherwise would occupy a disproportionate amount of jail space. Success rates increased from 28% to 75%. One person with schizoaffective disorder and a long history of DUI was booked into jail 53 times. Since entering the program he has been clean, sober and out of jail for 18 months. At the Sheriff’s Office, mental health professionals now work with offenders to diagnose, treat and connect them with community based services upon their release – reducing the likelihood of returning to jail.

The Sheriff’s Office operates the most robust jail-alternative programs in Washington that include the use of electronic home monitoring in lieu of incarceration, the option of avoiding jail time by working on community projects and jail work crews that perform thousands of hours of public service work. Jail work and education programs allow eligible offenders to retain their jobs or continue their education.
Despite successes there many challenges and opportunities remain.

The number of dangerously violent mentally ill offenders held in Jail has dramatically increased as state funding for Western State Hospital has decreased. Resulting backlogs for diagnosis and treatment can now take months. In the interim, the jail is ill-equipped to house, treat or effectively supervise these offenders. The proposed jail will provide 14 rooms to more effectively and safely facilitate these services.
Many minor offenders could be diverted from the criminal justice to the mental health system if a fully functional mental health triage facility were available. While state law provides for diverting persons suspected of committing certain non-violent misdemeanor offenses, it provided no funding. The County has appropriated $3 million for such services and the Health Department continues to explore options for operating the facility.

People should not have to be arrested to access mental health services. Dramatic reductions at state and federal levels have reduced options for community-based treatment. The County has filled some of these voids by funding a variety of programs that include behavioral health services at all seven School Districts; community-based mental health and substance abuse treatment; and services for the chronically homeless and chemically dependent.

Evidence-based research demonstrates that juvenile detention alternative programs can successfully reduce the number of incarcerated juveniles and enjoy enormous success in preventing adult crime. Initiatives at the state level are proposing to restore funding for these programs and I am serving on a committee that is working on a series of recommendations to the Legislature and counties.

The law and judges determine “who” is in Jail. The Sheriff and the County have the responsibility to operate the jail in a safe and constitutional manner. While various programs have achieved success in changing lives, most function on a “carrot-and-stick” model and it is necessary to maintain a facility where those representing risk to the community can be safely held.

Sheriff Bill Elfo
Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office
311 Grand Avenue
Bellingham, WA 98225

(360) 676-6650