BELLINGHAM, Wash. — Bellingham Police Department (BPD) recently announced that the victim of a fatal shooting during a party in Bellingham on Friday, October 28th, was a 21-year-old man from Ferndale.
The suspected shooter has been identified as Brian Andy Pantoja, age 22.
According to an affidavit for probable cause for arrest filed by prosecutors in Whatcom County Superior Court, shortly after arriving at the party the victim was seen by witnesses being punched by 2 others at the party. 1 of the 2 was identified as Pantoja. The fight was broken up and the parties separated. A witness reported hearing that someone with a gun was looking for the victim. As he was telling this news to the victim, he saw Pantoja walk up and shoot the victim in the chest from less than 1-foot away.
Pantoja and another male then fled the party.
BPD Lieutenant Claudia Murphy told Whatcom News that officers had a good description of Pantoja and immediately began looking for him. He was believed to be driving a white Dodge Charger, which officers recognized as the same as involved in a hit and run crash earlier in the night. An officer returned to the scene of the hit and run, where the Dodge was last seen, just as it was leaving the area. By the time the officer turned his patrol car around, the Dodge had fled.
BPD officers, with the assistance of deputies of the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office, continued their search of city, eventually locating the Dodge Charger in a parking lot in the 1900 block of Alabama Street. BPD K-9s Destro and Prowl were both called into service to track away from the Dodge. They were able to isolate a particular apartment according to Murphy.
BPD officers watched the apartment and eventually Pantoja walked out to a waiting car. He was taken into custody without incident and booked into the Whatcom County Jail
As of November 1st, Pantoja remained in custody pending being able to post a $5,000,000 bond, the amount requested by the prosecutor during a preliminary hearing on October 31st. Family members from both the victim’s and Pantoja’s family spoke during the preliminary hearing.
Pantoja faces 1st degree murder and unlawful possession of a firearm charges. An arraignment hearing is scheduled for November 18th.
Pantoja has a prior felony conviction in Whatcom County Superior Court for 2nd-degree robbery with a deadly weapon in 2020. As a result, he is not able to lawfully possess a firearm.