A Port Angeles man accused of initiating a gunfight with law enforcement officers on May 28 has a history of eluding officers and felony drug offenses, court records show.
James Edward Sweet remained in serious condition at Harborview Medical Center on Monday, May 30, as he recovers from gunshot wounds to the abdomen, Port Angeles Interim Police Chief Brian Smith said.
Sweet, 36, is under arrest at the Seattle hospital for investigation of attempted murder of a police officer.
Authorities said Sweet shot at Port Angeles Police Officer Whitney Fairbanks after failing to stop for a suspected traffic violation about 9:47 a.m. Saturday.
After a short pursuit from Golf Course Road, Sweet allegedly crashed into another vehicle on U.S. Highway 101 at Monroe Road, got out of his vehicle and began to shoot at the officer.
Fairbanks managed to exit her patrol vehicle and return fire. She was joined in the gunfight by Officer Dallas Maynard and Cpl. Kori Malone of the police department and Clallam County Sheriff’s Sgt. Shaun Minks.
A critically injured Sweet was upgraded to serious condition at Harborview late Saturday, police said.
None of the officers involved in the gunfight were seriously hurt.
“I have no idea when the suspect will be released, but I would expect he would be under intensive medical care for the time being,” Smith said.
Sweet is under state Department of Corrections custody at the hospital. Police are making arrangements with DOC to secure his long-term custody.
“Area law enforcement has extensive experience with him,” Smith added.
Sweet, a convicted felon who is prohibited from possessing firearms, was charged in four Clallam County Superior Court cases between December 2013 and November 2014, court records show.
He pleaded guilty Dec. 26, 2014 to amended charges of attempting to elude a pursuing police vehicle and possession of a controlled substance as part of a plea agreement.
He was sentenced to 22 months in prison and a year of community custody.
The eluding charge stemmed from a high-speed chase that occurred between Port Angeles and Sequim on the night of Aug. 2, 2014.
Sweet allegedly drove a 2001 Pontiac Grand Am at speeds of 90 mph on Old Olympic Highway and 70 mph on Gasman Road as he was being pursued by Clallam County Sheriff’s Deputy Paul Federline, according to the affidavit for probable cause.
The car stopped at the intersection of Gasman and Derrick roads, where two females exited, before speeding away against Federline’s repeated commands, the deputy wrote in his report.
“I am certain without any doubt (Sweet) was the operator of the vehicle I was in pursuit with,” Federline wrote.
Seen at casino
About two months later, Federline spotted Sweet leaving the 7 Cedar Casino in Blyn at about 1:45 a.m. on Nov. 10, 2014.
By that time, Sweet had confirmed felony warrants in Clallam County, an unconfirmed warrant from Colorado and was believed to be carrying a semi-automatic handgun, Federline wrote in another case report.
Sweet disobeyed Federline’s clear commands to stop and began to run away, the deputy said.
“I closed the distance and using a hip toss technique took James to the ground and a scuffle ensued,” Federline wrote in court papers. “I repeatedly told James to place his hands behind his back. James did not comply with my commands. I told James during the scuffle if he pulled out a firearm I would shoot him.”
Sweet reached for his waistband as the two men struggled on the ground, Federline said.
With the help of 7 Cedars security guards, Federline was able to place the 5-foot-10, 230-pound Sweet into a wrist hold and eventually into handcuffs.
No weapon was found.
Deputies did find 7.4 grams of methamphetamine in two containers Sweet was carrying. The substance tested positive for methamphetamine, court papers said.
More than 3 grams of suspected heroin was found in another container, but it did not test positive for the drug.
Federline said he asked Sweet if he was selling fake heroin.
“Yes,” Sweet replied. “It’s melted down sugar.”
Sweet had been charged in December 2013 with single counts of methamphetamine and heroin possession, both Class C felonies.
Deputies alleged that Sweet had snuck the drugs into the Clallam County jail.
After posting a $5,000 bail bond, Sweet failed appear in court and an arrest warrant was issued in April 2014.
Sweet pleaded guilty in December 2014 to bail jumping and was sentenced to 25 months of community custody under a drug offender sentencing alternative or DOSA.
The original drug possession charges were dismissed in exchange for the guilty plea.
Sweet had past convictions in Idaho for possession and delivery of a controlled substance in 1999 and trafficking methamphetamine in 2000, the Clallam County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office said.
He was convicted in Colorado of theft of a motor vehicle and attempting to elude in 2003 and three counts of menacing an officer with a real or simulated weapon in 2004, prosecutors said.
Sweet was charged by Clallam County prosecutors in March 2014 with being a fugitive from justice in Colorado, where he was on parole.
The fugitive complaint was dismissed May 30, 2014.
Rob Ollikainen is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group. He can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.