Birch Bay assault suspect shot by deputy

Published on Thu, Jul 12, 2001 by Meg Olson

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Birch Bay assault suspect shot by deputy

By Meg Olson

A Whatcom County sheriff’s deputy shot and killed a 55-year-old Birch Bay man suspected of physically assaulting the woman he shared a home with.

Benjamin Hillaire died at the scene after the officer fired at him five times, apparently in self-defense.

Responding to a hang-up 911 call, the deputy contacted three people at a home in the 8400 block of Treevue Road in Birch Bay at 2:15 a.m. July 7. “I believe one of them was the deceased’s significant other,” said undersheriff Deane Sandell. “We believe they were living together.” In talking to the two women and one man, the deputy determined that Hillaire had assaulted the woman and contacted him on a deck adjoining the home.

“He was very agitated prior to the officer’s arrival and he continued to be,” Sandell said. A sheriff’s office press release said Hillaire became “agitated and aggressive” when told he would be arrested. State law mandates that one party be arrested and removed from the scene if evidence of domestic assault exists.

A backup deputy joined the first officer after he had been on the scene for about 15 minutes. Hillaire produced two knives with four-inch blades and took an aggressive stance, “almost like a martial arts move,” Sandell said. Deputies pepper-sprayed Hillaire, but he continued to move towards officers. “It appeared to have very little effect on him,” Sandell said.
Hillaire was approximately four feet from the officers when the deputy who had first arrived on the scene fired his service revolver five times. “It all happened very quickly,” Sandell said. “The suspect was moving forward with the knives at the time he was shot.” He added that the deck where the shooting occurred was dark.

Medical aid was called to the scene but Hillaire died prior to their arrival. “He died very quickly,” Sandell said. An autopsy is ongoing. It is not known how many times or where Hillaire was hit. Officers are trained to use deadly force in circumstances they feel warrant it to defend themselves or the public.

The incident is the first fatal shooting by a county law enforcement officer since a Blaine officer shot Karl Walton in 1999. Sandell said a county sheriff’s deputy has not used deadly force since the 1980s.
The sheriff’s office is withholding names of deputies involved in the incident pending departmental review. Consistent with department policy, the deputy who shot Hillaire is on administrative leave during the review, and will receive trauma counseling.

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