Bellingham sixth grader allegedly punched by man in racist attack

Jun 14, 2024, 5:23 PM | Updated: Jun 18, 2024, 2:04 pm

Image: A Bellingham Police Department vehicle is seen on a city street in 2015....

A Bellingham Police Department vehicle is seen on a city street in 2015. (Photo courtesy of Alex Smith/@coffeeschmal on Flickr)

(Photo courtesy of Alex Smith/@coffeeschmal on Flickr)

A Bellingham sixth grader allegedly was attacked by a man who was spewing racist comments Wednesday.

According to a post on the City of Bellingham’s Facebook page, the assault happened during a school field trip. The Bellingham Herald reported the 11-year-old boy was punched in the face because of his race.

The Herald cited court documents stating the students were walking north on Grand Avenue near the police station when a man approached them. Bellingham Police Department (BPD) spokeswoman Megan Peters told the Herald the man then pushed a student and said “Are you gonna talk to a white man like that?.” The man then allegedly punched the boy in the face.

The Bellingham media outlet cited a probable cause statement filed in Whatcom County Superior Court that revealed the boy suffered a chipped tooth.

According to the City of Bellingham, police have arrested a suspect and are investigating the attack as a hate crime.

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The suspect, as reported by the Herald, is a 42-year-old man who was being held in the Whatcom County Jail on suspicion of second-degree assault.

‘What was taken can never be replaced’: Boy’s father speaks out

Prosecutors and the boy’s father then asked the court to set the man’s bail at $1 million. The Herald posted an audio recording of the boy’s father, in court, explaining his reasoning behind the high bail amount.

“The victim was my son and what was taken from him can never be replaced,” the child’s father said. “Bellingham has been a very safe place for us, whether he’s part of Bellingham or not it doesn’t really matter on a going-forward basis, we need to know that things like this are taken seriously, that we are heard. As an African American male who is a law-abiding citizen, who contributes to this community at a high level, we can’t stand for this sir, this has to be at least a million.”

In the end, the court set the man’s bail at $500,000.

The Herald also reported that nearly 30 people packed the courthouse, including members of the Whatcom Racial Equity Commission, Jason McGill with Northwest Youth Services, founder of the Bellingham Unity Committee Teejay Morris and former Bellingham City Council member Kristina Michele Martens.

Bellingham Mayor Kim Lund and Bellingham Police Chief Rebecca Mertzig were also there.

Along with attending the hearing, Lund and Mertzig condemned hate and discrimination in a video posted to the city’s Facebook page.

“The incident yesterday involving a child is intolerable,” Lund said in the video.

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Mertzig said police quickly arrested the suspect. She also said the department has extended additional support to the boy’s family and Bellingham schools.

Lund also shared that the Whatcom Racial Equity Commission held its first meeting earlier that week. She said some questioned if the commission’s is necessary but this attack shows more work is needed in the community.

“Acts of violence and intolerance are a painful reminder that we have work to do as a community and a nation to prevent and respond to discrimination and hate crimes,” Lund said.

For those who would like to report a hate crime, call 911.

Julia Dallas is a content editor at MyNorthwest. You can read her stories here. Follow Julia on X, formerly known as Twitter, here and email her here.

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