US military veteran Jesse Marshall and his neighbor Cody Deeter protected two Whatcom County deputies in the line of fire during a gunfight as Joel Berck Young, aged 60, shot the two deputies.

The two Whatcom County deputies, Ryan Rathbun and Deputy Jay Thompson responded to a neighborhood dispute last Thursday, February 10, in Peaceful Valley, Washington, around 4:17.  Joel Berck Young was annoyed at his neighbor who was burning garbage and/or wood. The smoke from the fire had come into his house, enraging Young. A verbal altercation between the neighbors ensued, with expletives and insults hurled in both directions. , Young then got his 12-gauge shotgun loaded with birdshot and fired a round in the air to make his point. Bad idea.

Peaceful Valley, Washington. (DENVER PRATT/THE BELLINGHAM HERALD)

When police arrived at 4:40 pm, Young seemed intoxicated and wavedhis shotgun around. Later, it was revealed that he had been drinking vodka, coffee, and cocoa. The two deputies then proceeded to yell, “Sheriff’s Office, drop the gun!” when Young had fired multiple rounds on them, with the first deputy getting hit in the head. The second deputy returned fire to protect his fallen comrade, but he also got shot. After hitting the two men, Young had celebrated, letting out a big “YAHOO!” after he shot the deputies.

Jesse Marshall and Cody Deeter, who were busy building a wooden bench nearby, heard the gunshots and proceeded to arm themselves to respond to the shots fired. Marshall and Deeter ordered their kids and wives to get into their house while they respond to Young. When they got to Young’s house on foot, Marshall and Deeter both opened fire on Young to provide cover allowing them to pull the deputies away from the vulnerable spot they were in.

“He [Joel Berck Young] stepped out, with a gun, being a threat. I’m a veteran. I’ve been to combat. I know how to handle it. It’s not fun,” Marshall said in an interview with King 5. “When I came around the corner, he was in the doorway, and I unloaded. Just to get him to go away so we can get these guys back,” Deeter explained.

Another unknown neighbor helped and managed to pull the deputies out of Joel Berck Young’s line of fire. Hearing a gun battle break out in “Peaceful Valley,” neighbors nearby called 911, and SWAT later arrived to arrest Young. Rathbun was then sent to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle and was deemed stable. The hospital confirmed that the deputy had been under the care of a specialist and was in good condition as of February 12. Thompson was sent to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Bellingham and was discharged shortly after a night of observation. The two deputies had served the community for 16 years and 13 years, respectively, and were thankful that they were still alive.

However, Rathburn had to undergo surgery. According to Whatcom County Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Erik Sigmar, both deputies suffered wounds to their heads, which may lead to them losing their eyesight or losing an eye.

Joel Berck Young, who surrendered shortly after the SWAT arrived, was subsequently charged with two counts of first-degree attempted murder among other charges, which allow for a life sentence in prison. He was later incarcerated in Skagit County Community Justice Center. Furthermore, Young is currently not allowed to possess any firearms and weapons and consume any intoxicants while waiting for his arraignment on February 18. His bail is currently set at $5 million, while the deputies’ family argued that he shouldn’t be granted bail.

“It’s not appropriate to place the community at risk by allowing lesser bail and potentially release. Indiscriminate shooting that places an entire neighborhood at risk followed by the malicious targeting of those responding to serve and protect this community should not be tolerated and cries out for high bail,” said Sigmar.

The Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office expressed their gratitude for the veteran and the other neighbors who intervened in the deadly situation and provided the deputies back up. “We are extraordinarily blessed that several armed citizens came to the deputies’ assistance at the critical moments when they were most vulnerable. I have contacted all three of the good Samaritans and expressed appreciation on behalf of myself and all members of law enforcement and their families,” said the statement.

“Please join me in continued prayers for the full and complete recovery of both deputies and comfort for their families; the protection of all law enforcement officers; and a return to law and order in our state and nation,” said Bill Elfo of the Whatcom Sheriff’s Office.

It looks like veterans are still out there serving the country even as their tours of duty have already finished. It is stories like these that we are reminded of how veterans stay true to their military roots, protecting others from the line of fire and putting themselves at risk for the community.

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