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Mount Vernon police officer shot in line of duty hailed as community leader

Mike McClaughry was shot in the line of duty in Mount Vernon on Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016. (Mount Vernon Police)

A 61-year-old Mike “Mick” McClaughry was canvassing the neighborhood after a reported shooting in Mount Vernon Thursday night when he was shot in the head.

McClaughry remains at Harborview Medical Center and, as of Sunday, was listed as in critical but stable condition with his family and Chief Jerry Dodd by his side. Harborview Medical Center spokeswoman Susan Gregg said in news release Sunday that Mike McClaughry is in the intensive care unit.

Officer McClaughry’s story

In a news conference Friday evening, Lt. Chris Cammock described 61-year-old McClaughry as a father figure not only to officers in the department, but also to the entire Mount Vernon community. As a 31-year veteran of the department, he was the first DARE officer and served as a Field Training officer who has trained three-quarters of the staff.

Cammock said McClaughry, a father of three, grew up in Everett, Washington, attended Cascade High School and Washington State University where he majored in business. He’s been active in Boy Scouts – with Troop 100. He also loves to walk to and from work and could often be seen heading home on foot at 3 a.m. in the rain.

McClaughry was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center after he was stabilized at Skagit Valley Hospital for a gunshot wound to the head. He underwent at least one surgery and is in the Intensive Care Unit at the hospital.

“That’s the biggest fear of any law enforcement officer out here,” Washington State Trooper Keith Leary said.”If I could be in his place I would. I know any of us would take that place. To go 30 years … bless his heart, he’s hanging in there.”

Cammock gave credit to McClaughry’s fellow officers who dragged him through the yard Thursday night as gunshots rang out in their direction.

“The courage and bravery that the officers took to risk their lives and drag him out … is a better description of what it means to serve in this occupation,” he said.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help out McClaughry and his family. Emails of support can be sent through Haborview’s website. Simply type “Mount Vernon Police Officer.”

The shooting suspect

The suspect, 44-year-old Ernesto Lee Rivas, is being held on investigation of attempted murder in the first degree. The Skagit County prosecutors say that this could be Rivas’ third strike, which means he could face life in prison. His bail is set at $1 million.

The Seattle Times reports Rivas pleaded guilty in 1998 in a deal with Yakima County prosecutors that saved him from life in prison. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison for abducting and interrogating four people he thought stole a woman’s necklace, according to The Times.

In 1997, Rivas was convicted of unlawful imprisonment and second-degree theft, according to The Times. In 2011, he pleaded guilty to unlawful firearms possession.

In the deal, Rivas pleaded guilty to three charges for the dismissal of 10 other charges that would have sent him to prison for life, The Time reports.

Hostages or alleged accomplices?

It was originally believed that hostages were inside the house with Rivas, but police say two teens were arrested for their alleged role in the standoff Thursday night.

Prosecutors say a 16-year-old is being processed as an adult and is held on probable cause for murder in the first degree. Bail was set at $500,000. A 15-year-old is being processed as a juvenile and is also held on probable cause for murder in the first degree. Bail is also $500,000.

Prosecutors have until 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday to file charges against Rivas and the two teens.

Thursday night in Mount Vernon

Around 5:30 p.m. Thursday officers responded to reports of a shooting at the intersection of Laventure Road and Fir Street. Responding officers began canvassing the area for witnesses. Lt. Cammock says shots rang out as McClaughry and other officers approached a nearby home.

The public was warned to stay away from the location. Rivas allegedly continued to fire at officers and SWAT vehicles hours after the initial call. Neighbors were evacuated to nearby Salem Lutheran Church.

After an hours-long standoff, Rivas was taken into custody.

“The SWAT team used gas to go into the house,” Trooper Leary said. “Those subjects ended up coming out eventually, without incident. There were no shots fired by officers at the time the person came out of the house. They were transported to the Skagit County Jail without incident.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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