PORT ANGELES — Bail has been set at $1 million for a Port Angeles man charged after a shootout with law enforcement officers at a busy Port Angeles-area intersection last May.
James Edward Sweet, 37, will be arraigned this Friday on four counts of first-degree assault with law enforcement enhancements and one count of attempting to elude. His bail hearing was this past Friday.
Sweet allegedly failed to stop for a suspected traffic violation in east Port Angeles and led Officer Whitney Fairbanks on a high-speed pursuit May 28, 2016.
After a brief chase, Sweet crashed the 1990 Toyota Camry he was driving into another vehicle at the U.S. Highway 101-Monroe Road intersection and opened fire on Fairbanks with a .38-caliber revolver, the State Patrol said in the affidavit for probable cause.
Sweet suffered multiple gunshot wounds in an ensuing shootout with Fairbanks, Officer Dallas Maynard, Cpl. Kori Malone and Clallam County Sheriff’s Sgt. Shaun Minks.
None of the officers or bystanders was injured in the gunfight.
“The defendant turned what should have been a routine traffic stop into a shootout with four police officers at one of the busiest intersections in the city,” Clallam County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Steven Johnson said in court Friday.
“The defendant’s actions here put the lives of those officers in great danger. He also put the life of Mr. [Patrick] Brady, whose car he struck, in great danger, as well as the lives of innocent bystanders who were there.”
While recovering at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, Sweet told a State Patrol investigator that he fired his revolver twice while still inside his vehicle and twice more while lying in the grass on the northeast corner of the intersection.
“While lying on the grass Sweet stated in the interview, ‘I just wanted them to end it and kill me,’ ” State Patrol Detective Rodney Green wrote in the probable cause affidavit.
Johnson requested a $1 million bail for Sweet based on an “extreme likelihood” that Sweet would commit a violent offense or fail to abide by court orders if released on his own recognizance.
Johnson cited Sweet’s criminal history, which includes attempting-to-elude and bail-jumping convictions in Washington, a drug trafficking conviction in Idaho and three convictions of menacing in Colorado.
“I would note that Mr. Sweet has a strong incentive, if he is released, to flee considering the amount of time he’s looking at,” Johnson told Superior Court Judge Christopher Melly.
“Someone with no criminal history facing these charges would be looking, by my count, at 51 years in prison. And Mr. Sweet has a significant criminal history, so he’s going to be looking at even more time than that.”
At the time of the shooting, Sweet was in possession of four firearms, more than 35 grams of methamphetamine, 3 grams of heroin, small baggies and other materials “consistent with drug trafficking,” Johnson said.
Sweet had been on state Department of Corrections supervision after pleading guilty in December 2014 to attempting to elude a pursuing police vehicle and heroin possession, court papers said.
After recovering at Harborview, Sweet was transported to Monroe Correctional Complex to serve time on his past conviction.
Sweet recently invoked his rights under the Revised Code of Washington section 9.98.010 to be brought to trial for charges related to the shootout within 120 days.
He is scheduled to be released from DOC custody in October, Johnson said.
“Due to the complexity of this case, even though Mr. Sweet has filed a speedy detainer, there is a decent likelihood this case will go past the amount of time that he has left in the Department of Corrections, which also leads the state to request this amount of bail,” Johnson said.
Given his client’s lack of financial resources, defense attorney Harry Gasnick of Clallam Public Defender said a $1 million bail was “excessive.”
Gasnick argued that Sweet’s warrant history was “not substantial” and that the bulk of the state’s presentation was predicated on a presumption of guilt.
“Given those circumstances, we’re urging that bail be set at the reasonable amount of $50,000,” Gasnick said.
Melly granted Johnson’s “compelling request” for a $1 million bail.
“Based upon the nature of the incident that’s alleged here, the jeopardy that the public was put in and the fact that firearms were involved, I think the request for $1 million is an appropriate number,” Melly said.
A shackled Sweet was ushered into the courtroom by two state and two county corrections officers.
Eight city and county law enforcement officers, including Fairbanks, observed the hearing from the back of the courtroom.
Melly signed an order for Sweet to be transported from Monroe Correctional Complex back to Clallam County, a three-hour trip, for his arraignment Friday.
“To the extent that there is some possibility of housing you here versus at Monroe,” Melly told Sweet, “that’s something that can be explored in the intervening period.”
“Right now, you’re just going to be transported back and forth until the court’s convinced that some other arrangement is appropriate,” Melly said.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.