Update: Video link corrected
Bellingham Police Officers involved in the shooting in Arroyo Park in December of 2018 were found to have adhered to and acted within BPD policy as has been determined by the administrative review board. Whatcom County Prosecutor’s Office review of the shooting also determined the officers “acted in both objective and subjective good faith in their lawful use of deadly force,” according to the written decision published.
On December 23, 2018 officers were sent to Arroyo Park for a male suspect, ultimately identified as 46-year-old Michah James Godfrey, threatening people with a machete. Godfrey also chased a man while holding the machete in a threatening manner. Bellingham Police officers were sent to the park to investigate and determined there was probable cause for Godfrey and there was an on-going threat to public safety.
To aid in the search for Godfrey, a WCSO K-9 team was requested. While searching for Godfrey, Officers Brown and Chissus saw an object fly by their heads and identified it as an arrow. They continued their search and came upon Godfrey concealed behind a log holding an object like a long bar or the machete. Based on the arrow which had been shot at the officers, they realized the object Godfrey had was a crossbow which he was aiming at them. Officer Brown and the WCSO Deputy repeatedly ordered Godfrey to drop his weapon, which he refused to do and in fact appeared to move around to get a better aim at the officers. Fearing they were about to be shot or killed by an arrow, knowing less lethal weapons were not an option due to the terrain, Officer Brown and the WCSO Deputy fired their agency issued firearms. Godfrey was struck by the gunfire and then complied with orders given to him. He was handcuffed, searched and officers and the deputy rendered first aid at the scene. Godfrey was carried out of the wooded area to the parking lot where Bellingham Fire Department medics transported him to the ER with non-life-threatening injuries.
The Law Enforcement Mutual Aid Response Team (LEMART) was activated to independently investigate this shooting, and as both BPD and WCSO personnel were involved, Ferndale Police Department took the lead. Washington State Patrol (WSP) team of crime scene investigators arrived and investigated the crime scene at Arroyo Park.
Upon Ferndale Police Department’s completion of the investigation, their report was forwarded for review by the Whatcom County Prosecutor’s Office. This review, completed in March, indicated the officers involved in this incident acted in good faith in their lawful use of deadly force and that an independent investigation by Ferndale Police Department was conducted.
After the prosecutorial review of the shooting, a BPD internal administrative review was conducted and completed in April. This review board is specific to BPD personnel involved in this incident. WCSO conducts their own administrative review specific to their personnel.
The review board concluded that the officers in this case acted within the scope of the established policies and procedures of the Bellingham Police Department.
”I thank the Ferndale Police Department,” said Chief Doll, “for their thorough investigation, the Washington State Patrol forensics unit who assisted in processing the scene, the Community for their continued support and ultimately our law enforcement personnel who risk their lives daily – as experienced in this event – to keep our Community safe.”
A video of the incident can be viewed at bit.ly/ArroyoPark
Claudia Murphy, PIO
Bellingham Police Department