Police arrest suspect who shot, killed 21-year-old at a Halloween party near WWU

Police arrested a man who shot and killed a 21-year-old at a Halloween party near Western Washington University Friday night. 

According to the Bellingham Police Department (BPD), just before midnight, police responded to a shooting at a home near the corner of N Garden St. and E Myrtle St – just a few blocks north of WWU’s campus.

Authorities say 22-year-old Brian Pantoja got into an altercation with the 21-year-old victim before shooting him in the chest, and leaving the scene with a group of friends. When authorities arrived, witnesses and first responders tried saving the victim’s life, but he died. 

The BPD says they had a good description of Pantoja, and were able to link him to a white Dodge Charger that was involved in a hit-and-run crash earlier in the night. Officers returned to the scene of the hit-and-run and spotted the car driving away from the area. 

BPD officers, with assistance of deputies of the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office, searched the city, eventually finding the Charger in a parking lot near Roosevelt Park. 

K-9 Officers Destro and Prowl were called to investigate the car, and were able to track Pantoja to a particular apartment nearby. 

Officers waited outside the apartment until Pantoja opened the door and walked toward a nearby car. He was immediately taken into custody, and booked in the Whatcom County Jail for first-degree murder and unlawful possession of a firearm. 

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Authorities say Pantoja is a convicted felon for second-degree robbery and is not permitted to own a firearm. 

BPD detectives and crime scene investigators are still investigating this murder, and are asking anyone with additional information or evidence to call their tip line at 360-778-8611.

Western Washington University released a statement on Saturday, saying neither the suspect nor the victim were students at the school. Additionally, there is no current threat to campus.