By Diana Hefley Herald Writer
STANWOOD — Detectives have recovered bullet fragments, supporting a theory that someone from shore used a rifle to shoot a Stanwood duck hunter Jan. 1.
The man was hit in the leg while he and his brother were in a 14-foot aluminum boat about 500 yards from land. The men reported that they were carrying 12-gauge shotguns.
A Washington State Patrol crime lab forensic scientist this week inspected the fired bullet fragments recovered from the boat and the victim. He concluded that the fragments came from a hunting rifle, potentially a Remington, Ruger or Browning, according to a ballistics report filed in court.
A detective who inspected the damaged boat also concluded that the bullet came from outside the vessel.
Detectives have been tracking down leads to identify the shooter. One of those potential leads caused a detective to serve a search warrant at The Daily Herald’s office in Everett this week.
The detective was seeking the identity of a person who posted a comment Jan. 3 under the newspaper’s online story about the New Year’s Day shooting.
The victim’s girlfriend called the comment to the detective’s attention, according to the search warrant. Someone had written that the shooting “was an accident, he wasn’t intending to fire he was looking through the scope, fired by accident.”
The newspaper agreed to remove the online post when contacted by a detective. The paper, however, declined to immediately provide the person’s contact information, absent a court order.
People who post to HeraldNet are required to provide the newspaper an email address. The paper’s software also captures the person’s computer Internet protocol address.
“When people register with HeraldNet, we tell them their comments will be anonymous. Unless we receive a subpoena or warrant, we stick to that policy,” Executive Editor Neal Pattison said.
The paper agreed to send the poster an email, requesting that he or she contact investigators.
The detective, however, said that if he wasn’t contacted, he would seek a judge’s order, granting him permission to seize the information.
The warrant was served Thursday.
The paper turned over the poster’s information, as ordered by Everett District Court Judge Roger Fischer.
“In this case, law enforcement told us it was an active criminal case and we generally don’t try to impede law enforcement,” Pattison said. “This is a different standard than we would follow if a source like this had been working directly with a reporter.”
It appeared that the person who left the post offered information that directly concerned an ongoing criminal investigation, Pattison said.
“I’d rather never have to give anything up. You have to judge the circumstances on a case-by-case basis,” he said.
Police aren’t saying if they’ve been able to contact the person.
Investigators also received a potential tip from a neighbor in the area. He told police he was out walking on Soundview Drive that day when he heard a single gunshot around 4:30 p.m. He said he had heard shotguns being fired about 10 to 15 minutes before hearing the rifle shot.
He said the sounds of gunshots in the area were “pretty normal” because of the hunting going on.
The duck-hunting brothers told police the incident happened around 3:40 p.m. It was reported to police around 5 p.m. when the men returned home.
The brothers said they first heard what they thought was an explosion. The man who wasn’t hit said he examined the shotguns and determined they were “safe” and neither had discharged.
The men had been seated under a camouflage tent, known as a duck blind, at the time. They said their heads were protruding through the top of the tent. The duck blind frame and tent both were damaged.
The victim told police that after the loud noise he felt pain in both of his legs and noticed that one of his duck decoys located in the stern was “blown apart.” He realized he had been shot. The men reported that they collected their decoys and headed back to the boat launch.
The next day the victim had surgery to remove a bullet fragment from his leg. Detectives collected it and also fragments from the boat. The were sent to the crime lab for examination.
The brothers also provided detectives GPS coordinates from their boat that, they say, pinpoint where they were at the time of the shooting.
The boat reportedly was facing the 20300 block to 20400 block of Beach Drive.
Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; firstname.lastname@example.org.