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Man arrested after 25-pound piece of railroad tie thrown into police SUV windshield

Interior of Bellingham Police SUV after being struck by a thrown 25-pound piece of railroad tie (September 17, 2022). Photo courtesy of BPD

BELLINGHAM, Wash. — Bellingham Police Department (BPD) Lieutenant Claudia Murphy told Whatcom News via email that 2 patrol officers riding in the same BPD SUV were driving down Lincoln Street approaching Fraser Street on Saturday, September 17th, about 4:45am. The officer driving noticed a person hunched over by the I-5 overpass as they approached the intersection of Lincoln and Fraser Streets. The man hurled a block of wood at the moving patrol car as they drove past him.

Approximate location of the incident

The block of wood, a 25-pound piece of railroad tie, landed on the windshield, shattering it. It penetrated the windshield, nearly striking the officers inside and leaving them covered in glass.

Murphy said, “The officers acted quickly to activate their emergency lights, keep control of the patrol car and call for further assistance. They turned the car around to find the suspect. They located him in the spot where he hurled the railroad tie at them and ordered him to show his hands.” 

The suspect ignored further commands to get on the ground and put his hands behind his back. But as other BPD officers arrived for backup, the suspect was able to be taken into custody without incident.

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One BPD officer sustained a minor cut on his arm. The patrol car is extensively damaged with a shattered windshield and damage to the hood. 

Murphy said the suspect was not targeting the police car specifically. Rather, he was waiting to hurl the railroad tie at any car coming around the blind corner.

A 25-pound piece of railroad tie thrown at a Bellingham Police SUV (September 17, 2022). Photo courtesy of BPD
A 25-pound piece of railroad tie thrown at a Bellingham Police SUV (September 17, 2022). Photo courtesy of BPD
A Bellingham Police SUV after being struck by a thrown 25-pound piece of railroad tie (September 17, 2022). Photo courtesy of BPD
A Bellingham Police SUV after being struck by a thrown 25-pound piece of railroad tie (September 17, 2022). Photo courtesy of BPD

The suspect was identified as Jacob M Johnston, age 25 and of Bellingham.

Johnston was arrested and booked into Whatcom County Jail charged with suspicion of the following crimes related to this incident.

  • 1st degree malicious mischief
  • 2nd degree assault

Johnston was also arrested under 8 active arrest warrants out of Bellingham Municipal Court for previous crimes in which he is a suspect and failed to appear in court.

  • 4th degree assault and malicious mischief third degree
    • On June 6, 2021, in the 2200 block of James Street, Johnston was reportedly at business destroying produce and stealing. He reportedly threw a squash and a shaving razor at an employee. He was booked into the jail.
      • NOTE: While jail records indicate some charges were dismissed and he had been sentenced and released after serving the sentence on the remaining charges, he was arrested for failing to appear in court on these charges.
  • resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and 2nd degree criminal trespass
    • On November 7, 2021, in the 800 block of Lakeway Drive, Johnston was reportedly seen prowling and beating on vehicles in a parking lot. When officers arrived, he refused to cooperate and resisted arrest. He had been trespassed from this location before. He was booked into the jail.
      • NOTE: While jail records indicate some charges were dismissed and he had been sentenced and released after serving the sentence on the remaining charges, he was arrested for failing to appear in court on these charges.
  • assault fourth degree
    • On April 9th in the 300 block of E Holly Street, a passerby was randomly hit in the face, Johnston was sent a citation on 6-16-22 after being positively identified as a suspect.
  • 3rd degree theft third and 3rd degree malicious mischief
    • On June 16th in the 1200 block of N Forest Street, Johnston was suspected of stealing items from a business. He was contacted by officers and arrested – unable to book due to jail restrictions – issued a citation.
  • 4th degree assault
    • On June 15th in the 1200 block of N State Street, Johnston was reported throwing chairs at customers inside a business. When an employee him to leave, he reportedly hit her with an open hand before leaving. He was issued a citation after he was positively identified on a later date.
  • 1st degree criminal trespass
    • On July 10th in the 1200 block of N Forest Street, Johnston was reportedly located in a bathroom of a business that he had previously been trespassed. He was issued a citation.
  • 1st degree criminal trespass
    • On July 14th in the 1600 block of Ellis Street, Johnston was reportedly caught shoplifting and fought with loss prevention employees at a business where he had previously been trespassed. He was issued a citation.
  • 3rd degree malicious mischief
    • On August 23rd in the 1200 block of W Bakerview Road, Johnston was reportedly throwing rocks at cars and used a rock to carve into the paint of a car. He was cited by summons.

According to Whatcom County Superior Court records, Johnston also has 3 currently active cases where he is the defendant in that court.

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  • Case filed 9/14/2022
    • 2nd degree malicious mischief (felony)
    • 4th degree assault
    • obstructing law enforcement
      • Released from custody after posting a $50 cash bond
  • Case filed 7/13/2022
    • 2nd degree malicious mischief (felony)
  • Case filed 9/9/2022
    • 2nd degree burglary (felony)

Johnston has prior felony convictions that include the following crimes.

  • 2nd degree malicious mischief
  • 2nd degree theft
  • violations of the Uniform Controlled Substances Act

Johnston remained in custody at the hatcom County Jail as of 7am on September 19th.

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