2 Whatcom County deputies shot in the head by suspect receive Medal of Honor; graphic bodycam released

Two Whatcom County deputies who were shot in the head by a suspect last year have received the Medal of Honor for Exceptional Meritorious Conduct and Serious Injury While in the Performance of Duty.

On Feb. 10, 2022, deputies Ryan Rathbun and Jason Thompson responded to multiple 911 calls about a person firing shots in the 3000 block of Green Valley Drive in the Kendall area. While they made contact with the suspect, they were shot in the head. 

The Whatcom County Sheriff's Office released body cam footage of the incident on May 12, 2023. It shows the pair of deputies asking the suspect to come out of his home. After a verbal back and forth, Thompson is shot in the head first and goes down. Rathbun is then shot while checking on Thompson. Rathbun returns fire at the suspect. Both remained conscious and were able to provide cover for a civilian who stepped in and fired at the suspect. 

"I was hit in the face and head, full face and head, still have pellets lodged in my sinuses, in my skin and various parts of my body," Rathbun told FOX 13 in January. 

"All my injuries were basically from here (bottom nose) to here (top of head), so I had a broken nose, multiple pellets in the forehead and face, one ended up behind my eye, caused me to go blind on my left eye for several weeks," Thompson said. "It took me, what seemed to me like several seconds, to kind of work through the process of, ‘if you’re dead then why are you still thinking? Are you dead? Is this the afterlife or is this the kind of thing where you sustained a fatal injury, and you know it but your body hasn’t given up yet.'" 

The bodycam footage was posted to the Whatcom County Sheriff's Office YouTube page. FOX 13 has not posted the video due to its graphic nature. 

Both recovered and returned to service a year later. 

On May 5, 2023, they were awarded the Medal of Honor by the Washington State Attorney General's Office during the Law Enforcement Medal Of Honor/Peace Officier Memorial Ceremony in Olympia. 

"During this incident, Deputy Rathbun and Deputy Thompson each placed the life of their partner and the lives of innocent citizens above their own," said David Heitzman, the Secretary of the Law Enforcement Medal of Honor Committee.

Rathbun and Thompson have been with the Whatcom County Sheriff's Office for nearly 30 years combined. 

The man accused of shooting them, 60-year-old Joel Young, remains in Whatcom County Jail. He has been charged with two counts of first-degree attempted murder, six counts of reckless endangerment, assault while armed with a firearm and felony harassment.