Body cam released after 2 Whatcom County deputies shot in the head by suspect receive Medal of Honor
They are two best friends, Deputies Jay Thompson and Ryan Rathbun, bonded through the brotherhood of the badge and now through blood.
"Initially, I thought I was dead," said Thompson, a 26-year law enforcement veteran. "I had a weird experience where I thought, am I dead, and this is what death is? Maybe that's the afterlife, I don't know."
Last month, the partners responded to a report of a drunken man shooting toward his neighbors in eastern Whatcom County.
When they arrived, Joel Young allegedly started shooting at the deputies -- hitting them both in the face with birdshot.
Court documents quote Young as saying, "I don't care if you're cops. I'm going to blow your head off," before opening fire.
Deputy Thompson didn't think he'd survive.
"I thought about my wife, my daughters," Thompson said while choking back tears. "I have three daughters. I have a granddaughter. I texted my wife from the ambulance, telling her I was shot and that I loved her."
Both deputies still have lead birdshot in their bodies. Rathbun might lose sight in his left eye, and Thompson was left with a traumatic brain injury.
Their futures in law enforcement are now very uncertain.
Thompson's wife, herself a Bellingham police officer for 25 years, is simply happy she still has her husband.
"We've been to a lot of funerals together. That's how we met. So, just the fact that I got to bring him home," she said, her voice trailing off into tears.
Both deputies are forever grateful to two neighbors who shot back at the suspect, providing cover while the fallen officers scrambled to safety.
"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," said Thompson.
Joel Young now faces two charges of attempted murder.
Both deputies have also filed lawsuits against Young to send a message.
"We're not just here to put on a badge and be the backstop for your gunfire," said Rathbun. "We're not here to be your victim, and we're not going to continue to be. We're going to hold you accountable."
Attorney Daniel Horne, with the Seattle law firm of Campiche, Andrews & Horne said, "You shouldn't shoot police officers. These guys showed up to de-escalate the situation. They didn't shoot first and ask questions later. They were shot while asking questions."
Horne also said his office is investigating where the shotgun came from.
If it was obtained illegally, Horne said he will go after whoever provided the gun to the defendant, as well.
"We're not going to turn over one rock. We're going to turn over every rock," he said.
After announcing the lawsuit, the two deputies said they now take nothing for granted, especially each other.
"Something like this forces you to really take stock in what's important," said Rathbun. "How lucky I am that we're both here, and I still have him as my friend?"