The suspect in a stabbing incident, who died at the scene of a police shooting, has been identified as 28-year-old Manuel Gonzalez. On Sunday, March 12, Gonzalez stabbed a 20-year-old male in the neck in an altercation in the 100 block of E. Holly Street. Gonzalez then fled the scene on foot, while witnesses gave chase. Gonzalez ran to the 1400 block of Railroad Avenue where a second confrontation between witnesses and Gonzalez was ongoing.
Bellingham Police Officer Jeremiah Leland, responding to the 911 call, spotted Gonzalez in the 1400 block of Railroad Avenue. Officer Leland exited his marked patrol vehicle; Gonzalez was still armed with the knife when Officer Leland began giving him clear verbal commands to drop his knife. Gonzalez did not comply with the verbal commands and advanced quickly toward Officer Leland. Officer Leland attempted to create distance between himself and Gonzalez by moving backward, but Gonzalez continued to move toward Officer Leland with the knife in an aggressive, threatening manner.
Officer Leland responded to the attack by firing his duty handgun at the charging Gonzalez. Once the scene was secure, Officer Leland and other officers on scene administered first aid until paramedics arrived. Gonzalez was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics.
“Although this is a tragic incident for our community and everyone involved, we are grateful that Officer Leland was not injured during the attack,” said Bellingham Police Chief Cliff Cook. “While we are still trying to locate Mr. Gonzalez’ next of kin, we will extend our condolences to his family.”
The victim of the stabbing sustained a significant wound to his neck and is still receiving treatment at PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center. Medical personnel have told police that his prognosis is good.
Gonzalez had a history of minor criminal offenses with Bellingham Police until he was arrested for Assault 1st degree, a felony, in March 2016. In that incident Gonzalez was contacted as a shoplift suspect. Gonzalez threatened an officer with a knife on that occasion. At that time Gonzalez chose to follow the officer’s verbal commands and dropped the knife. Gonzalez was arrested and booked into the Whatcom County jail. Gonzalez subsequently pled guilty and was sentenced to nine months in jail.
In November 2016 an investigation by the Bellingham Police Department of an unprovoked assault on a Whatcom Transit Authority bus revealed Gonzalez as the suspect. Gonzalez was exiting the bus and kicked an elderly man in the face/head area without provocation. The incident was recorded on the bus camera. Gonzalez was ultimately arrested by summons for assault 4th degree, a gross misdemeanor, and was issued a lifetime trespass warning for WTA properties.
Officer Leland has worked as an officer with the Bellingham Police Department for three years.
Included in this release are links to four different videos, which show different parts of the events that unfolded on Sunday. The first video is of the stabbing in the 100 block of E. Holly Street, which started the chain of events. The second is a view from a traffic pole camera in the 1400 block of Railroad Avenue, and the events that took place there. The third is from the body worn camera that Officer Leland was wearing. The fourth video is of the shooting from a private citizen’s phone.
The Whatcom County Sheriff’s Department is leading the investigation into the officer involved shooting. The Bellingham Police Department is investigating the stabbing.