By Diana Hefley Herald Writer
EVERETT — The attack on a sheriff’s deputy who was coming to the aid of a man on fire didn’t sit well with a Snohomish County judge Wednesday.
“The facts of this case are pretty egregious,” Superior Court Judge Eric Lucas said.
In December, Richard Kelly Erickson took a swing at a deputy even as his shirt was ablaze. The deputy dodged the punch and threw Erickson to the ground. Erickson continued to fight the officer, even attempting to take his weapon, court papers said. The deputy, fearing for his life, twice tried to shoot Erickson, but his duty gun malfunctioned.
The deputy had been called to the Lake Stevens neighborhood after Erickson, 41, jumped a neighbor’s gate and beat a 71-year-old man to the ground, unprovoked.
Lucas on Wednesday sentenced Erickson to a year in jail, the maximum allowed under the law. The defendant pleaded guilty in March to assault and burglary. He has been in jail since his arrest in January.
“Under these circumstances, 12 months is pretty fortunate,” Lucas said.
The 71-year-old man’s brother asked the judge Wednesday for justice. He also asked Lucas to get the defendant some help.
His brother was severely injured and spent a week in intensive care, the man said. He told the judge that Erickson has terrorized the neighborhood for years.
Erickson was convicted last year of harassing a different neighbor. Prosecutors had hoped that he would be supervised by the state Department of Corrections for that conviction, but that didn’t happen, the judge was told.
“The law means nothing to him,” the victim’s brother said. “It’s a bad, serious situation. My brother is so terrified of this man.”
Erickson’s neighbor told police he was in bed around 3:15 a.m. on Dec. 29 when he heard loud noises. He went outside to investigate after seeing what looked like fireworks going off. He encountered Erickson and asked what was going on. Erickson jumped the man’s metal gate and punched the older man in the face, knocking him to the ground, court papers said.
The neighbor was kicked in the back and chest. Finally, Erickson mentioned he had some dynamite and jumped back over the fence.
A deputy arrived to see a pickup truck driving away. He flipped his emergency lights on, planning to stop the truck. That’s when he noticed flames in the front seat.
Erickson jumped out without stopping the pickup. It rolled into a post. Erickson was on fire.
The deputy ran toward the man to provide aid. Erickson headed toward his house but turned around, confronted the deputy and tried to punch him.
The men fought for about three minutes. Erickson attempted to take away the deputy’s gun, undoing part of the holster. The deputy got control of Erickson’s arm and was able to pull his gun. He pointed the weapon at Erickson’s rib cage and pulled the trigger.
The gun didn’t go off. The deputy tried a second time but again the gun didn’t work. The malfunction was linked to the struggle, sheriff’s officials later said.
Finally, the deputy was able to subdue Erickson with a shot of pepper spray to the face.
Instead of jail, Erickson was first taken to the hospital to be treated for severe burns.
His attorney told Lucas on Wednesday that there had been an explosion in the truck. Erickson clarified that he hadn’t set himself on fire. He was lighting a cigarette, he said.
His attorney then leaned over and whispered something to the man.
“Yeah, I’ll apologize,” Erickson said.
The judge ordered him to get an evaluation for a drug or alcohol problem. He also is banned from having any contact with his neighbor for a decade.
Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; firstname.lastname@example.org.