State v. Bell, 012021 WACA, 53717-6-II

Docket Nº53717-6-II
Opinion JudgeLEE, C.J.
Party NameSTATE OF WASHINGTON, Respondent, v. RANDY WAYNE BELL, Appellant.
Judge PanelWe concur: Worswick, J., Glasgow, J.
Case DateJanuary 20, 2021
CourtCourt of Appeals of Washington

STATE OF WASHINGTON, Respondent,

v.

RANDY WAYNE BELL, Appellant.

No. 53717-6-II

Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 2

January 20, 2021

UNPUBLISHED OPINION

LEE, C.J.

A jury found Randy W. Bell guilty of three counts of harassment of a criminal justice participant and two counts of obstructing a law enforcement officer. He appeals his harassment convictions, arguing that the trial court erred in admitting evidence of an officer safety alert on Bell under ER 403 and ER 404(b). Bell also appeals one of his obstructing a law enforcement officer convictions, arguing that there is insufficient evidence to support the conviction. We affirm.

FACTS

On March 23, 2019, United States Forest Service Officer Andrew Larson observed an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) being driven in an area closed to motorized vehicles. He followed the ATV and was able to clearly see the driver, who was later identified as Bell.

Officer Larson approached Bell, and Bell began walking towards Larson "pretty fast." 1 Verbatim Report of Proceedings (VRP) (July 2, 2019) at 71. Bell got within one foot of Larson and told him that he had been a victim of a violent crime and that if Larson put his hand on his gun then Bell would "put [him] down." 1 VRP (July 2, 2019) at 73. At this point, Bell was physically leaning over Larson, who is five feet, ten inches tall, compared to Bell who is six feet, seven inches tall. Larson took Bell's statement as a death threat. Larson backed out of the situation, returned to his truck, and called back up. A backup officer arrived and the two attempted to locate Bell, but they were unsuccessful.

On March 28, Officer Larson went to Bell's residence. He was joined by Lewis County Sheriffs Office deputies Daniel Riordan and Jared Kasinger, and Washington State Patrol officer Kaleb Ecklund.

Officer Larson testified that when he arrived at Bell's residence, he learned there was an officer safety alert1 regarding Bell. Officers were warned that Bell owns a weapon and that a minimum of two officers were required when approaching him.

Due to safety concerns, the officers had dispatch call Bell's residence to attempt to have Bell come outside but were unsuccessful. The officers went throughout the neighborhood looking for Bell. Officer Larson stood outside Bell's residence to make sure Bell did not exit the residence. After approximately a half-hour, Bell exited the fenced inside yard of the residence and started to approach Larson. Larson yelled at Bell to stop and put his hands up, but Bell did not immediately put his hands up and continued to approach Larson. Larson yelled at Bell a second time to stop and put his hands up. Bell put his hands up but continued to move towards Larson.

Deputy Kasinger and Deputy Ecklund ran back to Officer Larson's location and observed that Bell was agitated that the officers were there. Bell would not comply with Larson's orders. Kasinger told Bell to keep his hands visible and get down on the ground. He explained that the officers had probable cause to arrest for a threat on a police officer. Bell inquired who the threat was on, and Deputy Ecklund shined his flashlight on Larson. Bell then called Larson "all sorts of names" and stated "that he would put [Larson and Kasinger] down." 2 VRP (July 3, 2019) at 183-84.2

When Deputy Riordan returned to Bell's residence, he observed the other three officers with their backs to Riordan and their flashlights on Bell. Riordan ran toward the officers "due to the fact that it appeared that [Bell] was not following verbal commands that they were giving him at that time." 2 VRP (July 3, 2019) at 165. Riordan ordered Bell onto the ground. Bell told Riordan that he had "bad knees." 2 VRP (July 3, 2019) at 173. Riordan permitted Bell to stand while he handcuffed him.

The State charged Bell with three counts of harassment of a criminal justice participant and two counts of obstructing a law enforcement officer. Count One was for Bell's conduct harassing Officer Larson on March 23. Count Two was for Bell's conduct harassing Deputy Kasinger on March 28. Count Three was for Bell's conduct harassing Larson on March 28. Count Four was for Bell's obstructing law enforcement on March 23, and Count Five was for obstructing law enforcement on March 28.

Prior to trial, Bell filed a motion in limine to exclude any evidence that there was an officer safety alert regarding Bell. Bell argued the alert would make "the water . . . too muddy" because the State would have to show "all of these officers were possibly aware of it." 1 VRP (July 2, 2019) at 18. He also vaguely argued there was a "hearsay" issue with the information that resulted in the officer safety alert. 1 VRP (July 2, 2019) at 17. Bell provided no argument regarding ER 403 or ER 404(b).

The trial court denied Bell's motion, stating "It's prejudicial, but I will allow, given the elements of the alleged crime, for you to present to the jury that there was an officer safety alert and whether or not that alert included the fact that he owned firearms, I will allow that as well." 1 VRP (July 2, 2019) at 22-23. Bell requested a curative instruction because Officer Larson would not have known about the alert at the March 23 encounter. The court stated that it would revisit the matter when discussing jury instructions.

During trial, Officer Larson testified that on March 28, he was informed that there was an officer safety alert on Bell. Bell...

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