Man goes on veterinary clinic stabbing spree at two hospitals in Washington
Victimsa veterinarian and veterinary staff membersurvive with non-life-threatening injuries.
Armed with kitchen knives, Charles Anthony Smith, 57, stabbed two people at two different Bellingham, Washington, veterinary clinics the morning of Oct. 9, angry because of the death of his cat. Both victims-a female veterinarian at Maplewood Animal Hospital and a veterinary team member at Fountain Veterinary Hospital-survived the attack. Smith was taken into police custody shortly afterward and was charged with two counts of first-degree assault and two counts of possessing weapons capable of producing bodily harm.
According to the Bellingham Police Department, Smith entered Maplewood Animal Hospital soon after the clinic opened at about 8:15 that morning. His first victim, a female veterinarian, was greeting him as he came in the door and attacked. She sustained a wound to her upper chest before forcing Smith to disengage. "The first victim was able to disarm the guy," Detective Sergeant Mike Scanlon says. She in turn incurred a defensive hand wound that was treated at the scene.
The victim was familiar with Smith. He was a client of the hospital whose cat had died the day before. She was able to disengage from Smith and retreat to the back of the business. Smith then pulled out a second kitchen knife and threatened front desk staff before fleeing from the area in his vehicle, the police report says.
As officers searched for the assailant, a 911 call came from Fountain Veterinary Hospital located less than two miles southeast of Maplewood Animal Hospital and where Smith had been a client in mid-September. "[Smith] had just walked into the business and, without saying a word, had stabbed an employee," the report states.
He stabbed a female veterinary employee in the neck near her trachea and fled the scene. Scanlon says the wound was above the collarbone on the victim's left side and made with the tip of the knife. "She was able to lean back as it was coming in," Scanlon says, protecting her from a more serious injury.
Just 10 minutes between the two attacks, officers began actively calling all local veterinary clinics to alert them about Smith. They told them to lock their doors until police knew more. "Banks have protocol for this type of thing; a veterinary clinic doesn't," Scanlon says.
"We got lucky that no one was seriously injured," he says, "and it wasn't for lack of trying." Both victims were alone in the front of the clinic when Smith entered. "[Employees] greeted the guy and they were attacked," he says. No warning, no verbal explanation.
At 8:44 a.m. an officer saw a car matching the description of Smith's vehicle about three miles northeast of Fountain Veterinary Hospital. Smith willingly pulled over, indicated that he was the person police were looking for and claimed he was heading to the police department to turn himself in. "He was very distraught over his cat dying," Scanlon says. "Was he done? I can't answer that, but he wasn't driving toward the police department." He said Smith wasn't driving in the direction of his home, either. But he did give himself up easily to the officer that pulled him over and admitted to the assaults. Scanlon said he indicated he "wanted other people to feel his pain."
Smith was held at Whatcom County Jail. Scanlon says Smith's other pets, reportedly some birds and kittens, are now in the custody of the local humane society. A search warrant for his vehicle was scheduled to have been served the following week.
Scanlon says there was a lot that the veterinary clinics did right in regard to the attack. It also helped that Smith fled instead of pursuing his victims. The victims were able to disengage quickly; medical training allowed colleagues to administer immediate first aid until first responders arrived and 911 was called promptly. "These folks did a great job," Scanlon says. "We're really pleased at how they took care of business."
Although personnel at both clinics weren't ready to discuss what happened, Maplewood Animal Hospital posted on its Facebook page: "Just letting you all know the doctors and staff are all ok (shaken up but ok) following the incident at the hospital today."
Scanlon said neither clinic reported any prior behavior from Smith that would have indicated the attack.
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