Stanwood man accepts responsibility for police incident

EVERETT — Gene Fagerlie was depressed, suicidal and intoxicated but he didn’t intend to shoot anyone, including the sheriff’s deputies who showed up at his Stanwood house in 2013.

That’s what his lawyer told a judge Thursday before Fagerlie was sentenced to six months in jail. Fagerlie, who was shot during the encounter with police, wasn’t taken into custody. He already had served his sentence and more while awaiting the outcome of the case.

“I consider Mr. Fagerlie one of my success stories,” Everett attorney Mark Mestel said. “He’s turned his life around.”

Fagerlie, 38, has regained custody of his young daughter. He’s undergone mental health and substance abuse treatment. He has the support of his family and friends, Mestel said.

“I accept responsibility for my actions. I wish I had handled things differently that night,” Fagerlie told the judge Thursday.

Snohomish County sheriff’s deputies were called to the man’s house after his girlfriend reported that he fired a shot into the ground. He was suicidal and requested that the woman pick up his young daughter. The woman tried to reason with Fagerlie but he insisted that she leave and fired a shot near her. She called his mother and 911 from a nearby fire station.

Fagerlie’s mother went to his aid and successfully convinced him that suicide was not the answer, Mestel wrote in court papers.

By then, sheriff’s deputies had arrived and had witnessed Fagerlie hiding weapons around his property. Dispatchers had been told that Fagerlie was armed and wearing a bullet-proof vest. He came out of the house carrying a gun. The deputies yelled conflicting commands at him, ordering Fagerlie to both drop his weapon and to raise his hands.

He had a rifle slung across his chest. He was lifting the gun over his head so he could place it on the ground, Mestel wrote. That’s when deputy Art Wallin fired his service weapon.

Fagerlie was struck in the hand and bullet grazed his head and arm. He was hospitalized for a few days before being booked into jail.

Prosecutors alleged that Fagerlie was aiming his gun at Wallin and charged him with second-degree assault with a weapon. They also charged him with assaulting his girlfriend and illegal gun possession. Detectives found a shotgun and rifle that were shortened to illegal lengths.

Later, Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Roe cleared Wallin of any wrongdoing. He concluded that the deputy was legally justified in firing his gun.

From the beginning, however, Mestel argued that his client never pointed his gun at police. He was trying to drop the weapon when he was shot. The longtime defense attorney commissioned an investigator who studied the wounds to Fagerlie’s hand, shoulder and head and the damage to his clothes from the bullets. The investigator concluded that Fagerlie’s hands were in a position consistent with trying to lift the gun over his head, rather than pointing it at deputies, Mestel wrote in court papers.

Prosecutors say they were forced to reduce the charges. Fagerlie’s girlfriend told them she was never afraid of him. Prosecutors also dropped the firearm enhancement on the other assault charge in exchange for a guilty plea.

There was a question whether he intended to aim the gun at the deputy, Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Julie Walter said.

“It was a potential issue at trial so we agreed to drop the firearm allegation,” she said.

That spared Fagerlie any prison sentence.

He pleaded guilty earlier this month to second-degree assault and unlawful gun possession, both felonies. He faced up to a year in jail. He had already served 13 months.

Fagerlie told Snohomish County Superior Court Judge George Bowden on Thursday that his main goal is to remain sober so he can provide a healthy environment and future for his daughter.

Bowden said he was encouraged by the defendant’s accomplishments in the past two years, including seeking treatment for his mental health.

“If you had not been depressed and drunk, none of this would have happened,” Bowden said. “If the police could shoot straight, you wouldn’t be here today.”

Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; hefley@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @dianahefley

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