Port Angeles man accused of shooting at neighbor to be arraigned

Derek Darling deemed competent after being ordered to take medication

PORT ANGELES — A Port Angeles man, forced by court order to take psychotropic medication, has been deemed mentally competent to take part in legal proceedings against him on 2018 charges that include shooting at a neighbor with rifle fire that glanced off a propane tank.

Derek D. Darling, 41, will be arraigned Friday, April 26 in Superior Court on charges of first-degree assault with a firearm and second-degree assault with a deadly weapon — a firearm — with a law enforcement enhancement, for his actions toward a Sheriff’s Office deputy.

Darling, determined Friday by Superior Court Judge Lauren Erickson to be mentally competent, remained in the county jail Saturday on $250,000 bail.

The charges grew out of an incident last summer that drew law enforcement officers from throughout the county to the $411,000 Mountain Road Home property and home where Darling was a caretaker and became central to an active-shooter incident.

At around noon July 24, Darling allegedly fired a scoped, bolt-action rifle multiple times from the parcel at a neighbor, injuring the man in the face with broken glass, according to the probable cause statement.

Darling allegedly was firing when numerous law enforcement officers arrived, minutes later standing at the end of his driveway and pointing the rifle at sheriff’s Deputy Bill Cortani.

Cortani drew his sidearm, retreated behind his vehicle and identified himself by name before Darling lowered his weapon, according to the statement.

Cortani took Darling to the ground when he resisted arrest, sustaining cuts and abrasions to his arm and using a stun gun to subdue him before Cortani and Deputy Paul Federline handcuffed him.

Darling told authorities that he owns the neighbor’s house. He told the neighbor to get out of the house and fired a round into the window and two or three rounds into the home “so that the cops would come,” according to the probable cause statement.

Darling told two detectives “he was angry enough that he wanted to kill that guy,” according to the statement.

Investigators discovered bullet defects to the victim’s house, RV, boat and a propane tank that were consistent with how the homeowner and Darling described the shooting, according to the statement.

Several spent 6 mm bullet casing were in Darling’s garage driveway, the statement said. A Remington 6 mm Model 788 rifle — commonly used for deer hunting — with a Bushnell scope was in the garage as well as more 6 mm casings, and 6 mm bullets were inside the residence, it added.

The houses were 300 feet apart, Sheriff’s Office Inspector Josh Ley said Friday.

Eight shots were reconstructed, and additional shots were heard on the 9-1-1 recording that brought law enforcement to the scene, he said.

One bullet glanced off the propane tank cylinder near the top of the valve assembly, Ley said, adding he did not know how much propane was in the vessel.

Darling was scheduled to enter a plea Friday in Superior Court but the arraignment was delayed for two weeks.

“We’re going to ask you to set this over, just because Mr. Darling is newly back,” Port Angeles lawyer John Hayden of Clallam Public Defender, representing Darling, told Judge Lauren Erickson.

“There are some potential defenses we need to discuss before we proceed.”

In an Aug. 17 mental health evaluation by psychologist Barry Ward of the Office of Forensic Mental Health Services, Darling said he spent time in a Vietnam orphanage, served in the Chinese military, had advanced degrees in law and medicine, and was hit by a Mack truck in 1998, severing his spine.

He was evaluated in 2016 by a Western State Hospital psychologist in relation to criminal mischief charges. The psychologist said he may have a personality disorder or substance use order that “did not rise to the level of a ‘mental disease or defect,’ ” according to Ward’s evaluation.

His sister, in an interview with Ward, said her brother was born in Port Angeles, had never been to Asia, and was not an orphan, his evaluation said.

She told Ward that he was an endurance athlete, had taught yoga, and was a successful businessman until about 10 years ago, when he became more distant and “different,” and two years later, appeared to be “paranoid” and exhibiting “odd behavior,” claiming people were listening to him.

She said Darling was caretaking at the house on Mountain Home Road in return for staying there.

Ward, the psychologist, determined Darling met the criteria for a diagnosis of schizophrenia and lacked the capacity to understand the proceedings against him and assist in his defense.

Superior Court Judge Brian Coughenour signed an order authorizing administration of involuntary medication Jan. 28 to Darling after Darling refused to take prescribed anti-psychotic medications, according to a second mental competency evaluation March 26.

Psychologist Jacqueline C. Means of the state Office of Forensic Mental Health Services determined that Darling had been complying with the court order for him to take psychotropic medications since Jan. 30.

By March 11, “observations of symptoms associated with his mental illness decreased in intensity, as he was willing and able to talk realistically about his family relationships and circumstances of his case,” she said.

“He was able to reason that the current charges were serious in nature, that the prosecutor would be invested in securing a guilty plea and that a more likely outcome would be that the prosecutor would offer a plea bargain to a lesser charge that he would then discuss with his attorney.”

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].

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