A 59-year-old man who violently attacked a Richland police officer in 1982 may now be a free man.
Jerry D. Lain’s release was blocked previously by two Washington governors, but online offender custody records show he was out of custody as of Monday.
Details of the parole release, including where Lain plans to live and what conditions the state placed on him, were not available.
Lain had been locked up in Washington prisons for more than 34 years for stabbing and shooting Officer Mike Fitzpatrick, almost killing the policeman who was responding to a routine call of a car prowler.
Richland police Capt. Mike Cobb was disappointed to hear the news, particularly since his department was not notified by corrections officials even though it was their officer who had been the victim of Lain’s last felony conviction.
“It’s like closing the barn door after the horse is gone,” Cobb said of learning about the release after the fact. “I’m worried about an officer contacting him or a citizen running afoul of him. That’s my biggest concern.”
“This is one violent individual; he has been his whole life,” he added. “You talk about a guy who poses a risk to public safety — he is definitely one of those.”
Cobb didn’t know if Lain was being released in Benton County or if he was going back to his home state of Iowa.
Lain reportedly has an active parole violation warrant out of Iowa. He did not show up during an offender search on the Iowa Department of Corrections website.
Lain’s prison history dates to 1976 in Iowa, where he was imprisoned until 1982 for stabbing a man during a bar fight. While in an Iowa prison, he permanently blinded another inmate by tossing acid in his face.
Two weeks after his release on parole, Lain “married a young woman he met at a party” but faced a trip back to prison when he got into a fight with his wife and her father two months later, according to documents.
Lain claims he hitchhiked to the Tri-Cities, leaving Iowa with the permission of his parole officer, and lived in a campground. He was drinking heavily and using drugs during that time, and got by “mostly stealing,” documents said.
The attack on Fitzpatrick in Columbia Park near the Richland Y came five months after Lain left prison.
On Sept. 7, 1982, Lain stabbed the officer seven times, then wrested Fitzpatrick’s service revolver from him, wedged the gun under the officer’s vest and fired. Lain put the gun on Fitzpatrick’s chin and fired again.
Miraculously, Fitzpatrick survived, though he had massive stomach injuries and a splintered jaw. Some of the cuts to his arms potentially were lethal.
“It’s hard not to make it personal. Being there that night was not a good experience,” Cobb said Monday. “What (Lain) did to Fitzpatrick was inhuman. Fitzpatrick was lying on his back helpless, and he shot him in his face, after stabbing him seven times.”
Lain was convicted in Benton County Superior Court of first-degree assault with a deadly weapon and vehicle prowling. A judge sentenced him to a maximum of life in prison, but in the mid-1980s, the review board reset his minimum term at 20 years after a change in the state’s sentencing scheme.
The state Indeterminate Sentence Review Board decided in June 2010 that Lain was fit for parole.
The plan he submitted to the state then said he wanted to move back with his family in his home state, work on neighboring farms and participate in chemical dependency aftercare, all while being supervised by the Iowa Department of Corrections.
The board approved the plan in November 2010, and Lain was set to walk out of prison by Christmas. But his release was blocked by then-Gov. Chris Gregoire with just days to go when it was brought to her attention by Fitzpatrick and the news media.
Gregoire, who invoked a little-used provision in state law, noted that Lain while behind bars had committed 23 infractions in 18 incidents and had a moderate to high risk of reoffending, particularly with another violent crime.
Fitzpatrick was living in the Spokane area and working undercover in law enforcement at the state level. At the time, he said he was “pretty relieved” that Lain was staying behind bars and was convinced that somebody’s life was saved because of the governor’s decision.
During a 2011 hearing before the state board, Lain said he would accept spending the rest of his “natural life” in prison if so ordered, as long as the decision was based on truth.
“I’m not the same man I was 28 years ago,” he said while locked up at the Monroe Correctional Complex. “I’m truly sorry I hurt Officer Fitzpatrick and the community … I wish I could take it all back, but I can’t.”
Lain’s release had been stopped previously at least six times when Gov. Jay Inslee in 2014 again overturned the board’s decision based on facts of the case and evidence before him.
Lain last had a hearing before Indeterminate Sentence Review Board members in October. The board minutes don’t give further information about what members said during deliberations, or Lain’s plan for after his release.