Shooter ruled insane at time of assault

Victims tell of trauma suffered

PORT ANGELES — A Port Angeles man who injured his neighbor when he shot a high-powered rifle through his window in 2018 remained for several days in the Clallam County jail without bond until Friday while he awaited placement in a state mental hospital.

Superior Court Judge Brian Coughenour ruled May 14 that Derek Dwayne Darling, 42, was insane when he fired the weapon from his house into his neighbors’ partially built home July 2018, sending shards of window glass into the occupant’s face.

The state Department of Social and Health Services, which has custody of Darling, will assign him to Western State Hospital or Eastern State Hospital, Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Michele Devlin said Thursday in an email.

“They have their own protocols for admission that need to be completed prior to his admission, and I’m sure with the pandemic this is taking a bit of time,” Devlin said.

Coughenour ruled that Darling committed, but was not guilty of, first-degree assault with a firearm because Darling could not tell right from wrong.

“At the time of the act charged, the defendant was suffering from a mental disease or defect affecting the defendant’s mind to the extent that the defendant was unable to perceive the nature and quality of the act with which he is charged; or the defendant was unable to tell right from wrong with reference to the particular act charged,” Coughenour ruled.

A charge of second-degree assault with a deadly weapon that included a firearms enhancement was dropped.

Coughenour issued his ruling in response to a motion to dismiss the case signed by Devlin, Darling, and Darling’s lawyer, Port Angeles attorney John Hayden of Clallam Public Defender.

Aiming a scoped, bolt-action rifle, Darling fired the shots at about noon July 24, 2018, from the property of a $411,000 house on Mountain Home Road that he was caretaking, according to court documents.

When law enforcement converged on the address where Darling was living, he way standing in the driveway, armed, according to the probable cause statement.

He pointed the weapon at Sheriff’s Deputy Bill Cortani before lowering his weapon, according to the statement.

The same day Coughenour issued his ruling, the injured homeowner and his wife submitted victim-impact statements.

They said Darling was often verbally abusive and was known by neighbors to be disruptive, often screaming at no one in particular and firing shots.

“We were all extremely concerned,” she said.

On the day of the shooting, Darling had yelled at the homeowner, who later saw Darling walk down a driveway toward the road.

Concerned Darling was heading to his property, he grabbed a pistol.

He was peering out the window, looking for Darling, when a bullet struck, shattering glass and leaving his face bloody.

He hid in his workshop, called 9-1-1, and went to the Olympic Medical Center emergency room, where glass and bullet fragments were removed from his eyes, he said.

“I still have glass fragments that couldn’t be safely removed, and of course scars,” he said.

“It must have been a miracle that my vision was not permanently impacted.”

Darling fired at least eight bullets at the man’s property, the homeowner said.

Three windows were shot out, three bullets were shot into a vehicle, and one bullet went through the fifth-wheel he was living in while building the home.

“I was devastated on seeing where a bullet glanced off the top of our new and just filled 250-gallon propane tank and shattered,” he said.

“I am on prescription medication for [post-traumatic stress disorder] and I finally sleep through the night without dreams of that day, and also, the old submerged memories of 13 months in Vietnam during the war.”

The same day as Coughenour’s ruling, a lifetime no-contact order was issued against Darling, requiring him to stay 1,000 feet away from the man.

The man’s wife said in her victim impact statement that she has nightmares of Darling trying to murder her husband.

“What if he gets close and shoots my daughters and [my husband] and me?” she said.

“That incident of July 24th, 2018, has been etched in my mind forever.”

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