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July 4, 2020

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Vancouver man gets 5-plus years for assaulting stranger, Clark County deputy

Case ‘horrible,’ says judge, adding 'there are certainly no winners’

By , Columbian Breaking News Reporter
Published:

A 37-year-old Vancouver man was sentenced Wednesday to 5 1/2 years in prison for assaulting a Brush Prairie man and then fighting a Clark County sheriff’s deputy who responded to the scene.

James Matthew Kelly pleaded guilty in December to second- and third-degree assault, court records show. Kelly faced up to seven years on the charges. Senior Deputy Prosecutor Kasey Vu argued for a six-year sentence.

Kelly originally faced two counts of second-degree assault for the June 13, 2018, incident outside a Brush Prairie home. He repeatedly punched Philip Henry, a resident of the home, and attacked Deputy Chris Story, prompting him to fire his weapon at Kelly, according to the prosecution.

Judge David Gregerson called the case “horrible.”

“There are certainly no winners,” Gregerson said.

Defense attorney Tony Lowe argued for a sentence below the standard range, 63 to 84 months, because Kelly has mental health issues and did not have the capacity to understand his actions during the incident.

“When the incident occurred, there was a mental impairment present,” Lowe said. “There was obviously an impairment.”

Deputies were called shortly before 2 p.m. to the home at 11518 N.E. 126th Ave., after a man, later identified as Kelly, was seen jumping on vehicles parked near the home and acting strangely, the sheriff’s office said.

People at the home told The Columbian that Kelly had previously lived there but had been kicked out of the residence for drug use.

Henry told investigators that he went outside to talk with Kelly, whom he had never met or seen before, and Kelly demanded to see two other residents of the house. Kelly then began repeatedly striking Henry in the face and chest, according to an affidavit of probable cause.

A state psychologist found Kelly was acting under an unfounded belief that the people who he was looking for had wronged or harmed his family, Vu said.

Story arrived a short time later and approached Kelly, who was lying on the hood of a car. Kelly identified himself as Vladimir Putin, jumped off the hood, walked toward the deputy and lunged at him, according to a review by county prosecutors.

Kelly placed Story in a headlock and bent the deputy’s head toward the ground. Story struggled to escape Kelly’s grasp but was overpowered. After some difficulty, Story was able to call for help before Kelly knocked his radio away. The struggle continued, and the two men fell to the ground. Kelly pinned the deputy beneath him and put pressure on his throat. Vu said the deputy told investigators that at one point, he thought he would lose consciousness.

Story was unable to reach his Taser weapon and believed it would have been ineffective anyway, so he decided to draw his pistol, according to the review. The deputy fired one round from his pistol. Kelly did not react to the first shot, so Story fired another round.

“(Kelly) was very lucky not to have been killed that day,” Vu said, noting the defendant was struck twice in the torso and needed surgery.

Prosecutors determined that Story acted appropriately in using deadly force.

About a week after the shooting, corrections deputies wheeled Kelly into Superior Court in a restraint chair. He was ordered to be admitted to Western State Hospital for treatment of schizophrenia, so his case could proceed to trial. The attorneys said Thursday that Kelly is taking medications that have improved his mental health.

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