Two Whatcom County deputies return to service after being shot in the face during line of duty

Two Whatcom County sheriff’s deputies are returning to work after being shot at while on duty.

It’s been nearly a year since Deputy Jason Thompson came inches from death or permanent disability.

On Feb. 10 2022, he and his partner Ryan Rathbun were trying to defuse a tense neighbor dispute in Peaceful Valley – when shots rang out.

Deputy Rathbun said, "my fear was that the suspect was going to be coming out to finish trying to kill deputy Thompson or engage us in a gun fight. The focus was on protecting him, myself and the community."

The man they were there to confront – 60-year-old Joel Young – had fired on them with a shotgun at close range.

"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 said.

"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.'"

It was their partnership and sense of purpose, which got them through that day, but it’s also the community’s outpouring of support, which has brought them both back on duty, ready to once again protect and serve.

"Do appreciate it. Do love us, do want and respect what we do, so that for me was a big paradigm shift from what’s been going on for the last several years, and it’s, I think it was great," Rathbun said. "I think it’s one of the greatest things for me that’s come from this."

"Ryan and I, both have something to offer and to give and serve our community and try to return some of that good," Thompson said.

Young remains jailed on attempted murder charges. The deputies’ families, also have pending civil suits against him.