Officials don't doubt that Tyler Gaffney served in the Army but there are serious questions about whether he has been truthful about those experiences.
In September, after a standoff with sheriff's deputies, Gaffney told detectives that "he was a member of a super-secret Special Forces team." He also asserted that he served on secret combat missions and had been awarded medals for his bravery. He claimed to suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder because of his combat experiences.
The detectives, both of whom served in the military, determined that many of his combat stories followed the plots of popular war movies, Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Paul Stern said.
He advised the judge that there were concerns about "stolen valor." For the defendant's own benefit, these issues should be explored in treatment, Stern said.
Superior Court Judge Michael Downes on Wednesday sentenced Gaffney to six months in jail for the Sept. 29 incident. He also ordered Gaffney to get mental health treatment and return to court in April to report on his progress.
Gaffney already has served most of his sentence and is expected to be released in about three weeks. Once he is released, Gaffney will be under the supervision of the state Department of Corrections for a year.
Downes encouraged Gaffney's attorney to arrange a mental health evaluation before the Snohomish man is released from jail. He has a history of mental illness and has received treatment through the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Gaffney pleaded guilty last month to second- and third-degree assault. Police were called to the family home after Gaffney punched his father in the face and threw a large knife at him.
The situation escalated when deputies arrived. Gaffney came to the door with knives in each hand and screamed at the deputy to leave. He retreated, then returned to the door carrying some sort of device and told the deputy, "I'm going to blow you all up!" Deputies tried to get Gaffney to surrender. Instead, the Snohomish man claimed to be a trained sniper and threatened to shoot the deputy.
He was seen displaying what appeared to be a firearm. He claimed it was an M-4, an assault rifle widely used by the U.S. military. A short time later Gaffney tossed something out of the window. It was lit, but fizzled out.
As the standoff stretched on, Gaffney came out of the home carrying what appeared to be an M-4. Deputies ordered him to drop the rifle. When he didn't do so immediately, they used "less lethal" impact ammunition to knock him down and took him into custody. His gun was an Airsoft replica of an M-4.
"I hope you do really understand this just can't happen again," Downes said.
He told the defendant he is fortunate he wasn't killed by the deputies.
Her client has undergone mental health treatment with the VA, said Cassie Trueblood with the Snohomish County Public Defender's Association. He sought help about a week before the incident but was turned away, Trueblood said.
Gaffney apologized to his family, including his children. He also apologized to the children he had coached in youth football.
"I want to get better more than anybody," Gaffney said.
Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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