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2 Wash. deputies shot in head, graphic bodycam video shows

Police car lights. (Dreamstime/TNS)
May 31, 2023

In Whatcom County, Washington, two deputies who survived gunshot wounds to the head have returned to the force with honors. 

On May 5, Deputies Jason Thompson and Ryan Rathbun were awarded the  Medal of Honor for Exceptional Meritorious Conduct and Serious Injury While in the Performance of Duty by the Washington State Attorney General’s Office in recognition of their bravery and dedication to duty, Fox 13 reported.  

The award comes after Thompson and Rathbun responded to a call from a distressed individual reporting his neighbor was possibly intoxicated and had fired shots on February 10, 2022. 

In the newly released bodycam footage, which was posted on Twitter by the account AlphaFox, the suspect, Joel Young, 60, was heard telling the officers that he would “blow their heads off.” 

Young opened fire as the deputies attempted to speak with him. Thompson was shot first and Rathbun was shot while attempting to shield him. While the officers called for backup, a neighbor arrived and engaged the suspect in gunfire, providing cover. 

The bodycam footage shows Thompson kneeling on the floor of a garage, his head and glasses covered in blood. 

“I’m losing vision in my left eye,” he states calmly in the video.

After reinforcements arrive, Thompson and Rathburn are seen providing cover for one another as they make their way to their patrol car to seek medical aid. 

According to Fox 13, David Heitzman, Secretary of the Law Enforcement Metal of Honor Committee, cited these actions as the basis for the award.

“During this incident, Deputy Rathbun and Deputy Thompson each placed the life of their partner and the lives of innocent civilians above their own,” Heitzman said

Young was taken into custody without further event and is currently facing 11 criminal charges, including two counts of first-degree attempted murder.

For Thompson and Rathburn, who returned to the force in January 2023, the ordeal taught them to take nothing for granted. Both officers suffered through months of recuperation, with Thompson in danger of losing his eye and Rathbun reportedly working to overcome a traumatic brain injury. 

According to King 5, both officers credit their families, communities and one another with their recovery. 

“Something like this forces you to really take stock of what’s important,” Rathbun said.” How lucky I am we’re both still here and I still have him as my friend.” 

Thompson reflected on his family and the community that helped the officers when they needed it the most.

“I thought about my wife, my daughters,” Thompson said. “I have a granddaughter.”

Regarding the neighbors that stepped in, Thompson said. “The fact that they would even step up and put themselves in danger for us speaks very highly of the neighborhood we have up there.”