This month’s release of a man who spent nearly 35 years in prison for stabbing and shooting a Richland officer caught his victim by surprise.
Former Officer Mike Fitzpatrick was critically hurt and left permanently disfigured after the 1982 attack by Jerry D. Lain in Columbia Park.
Every time his would-be killer came up for parole, Fitzpatrick spoke out.
And every time Lain’s parole was moved back, Fitzpatrick welcomed the news because he believed it was saving somebody’s life.
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This time around, Fitzpatrick and his wife, Connie, were notified that Lain may be released around April 17. But the couple say they were told by the governor’s office that it likely wouldn’t happen until May.
But the couple learned last week from friends reading news reports, that Lain was released as originally scheduled. By that time, Lain was outside prison walls and back in his home state of Iowa.
The Fitzpatricks were shocked and disappointed at the lack of notification from state agencies.
Connie Fitzpatrick said the couple have moved on and “could care less about this man, but we don’t want anyone else hurt, any other unsuspecting law enforcement officer hurt or any other family hurt.”
“We know what (Lain) is like, we know who he is and we know what he will more than likely do,” she added.
We know what (Lain) is like, we know who he is and we know what he will more than likely do.
Connie Fitzpatrick, formerly of Richland
Mike Fitzpatrick, now 63, continues to work undercover in law enforcement at the state level.
Lain, 59, began three years of community supervision “at the highest level” on April 17 after he officially was released from the custody of the Washington state Department of Corrections, according to state documents released to the Herald.
He initially will be in a residential treatment facility in Sioux City for three to four months. Once that program is completed, he will live with his mother on the family farm in Burt, the documents said.
Lain was found to be rehabilitated in November after two Washington state Indeterminate Sentence Review Board members met with him, his attorney and a correctional counselor in Iowa.
He has “community support, education, employment skills and a positive attitude which is shown in compliance with facility rules for the last 12 years and a willingness to follow parole conditions,” members noted in board documents.
“The board finds that Mr. Lain is rehabilitated and a fit subject for release,” the members concluded in a decision made official March 6.
Lain’s time behind bars was extended on a number of times, including in 2010 when then-Gov. Chris Gregoire invoked a little-used provision in state law and in 2014 when Gov. Jay Inslee again overturned the parole board’s decision.
Nicholas Brown, Inslee’s general counsel, said his office did not get any requests this time to block Lain’s release so the governor decided not to take action.
Brown noted that there can be confusion between the Indetermine Sentence Review Board and clemency granted by a governor. He said the state law that allows governors to overturn the review board’s release decision has only been used in this one case in more than 30 years.
The Fitzpatricks did convey that they did not, of course, want him released, but they spoke to me more about addressing his release conditions.
Nicholas Brown, Gov. Jay Inslee’s general counsel
“The Fitzpatricks did convey that they did not, of course, want him released, but they spoke to me more about addressing his release conditions,” Brown told the Herald.
He said the office then worked with the review board to make sure the conditions for Lain were more stringent, but said they couldn’t include everything the Fitzpatricks wanted.
Brown acknowledged that when he spoke with the couple in March, he told them he had learned from Iowa that Lain’s release likely would be delayed until May because there was no available bed space in a halfway house. He said he only learned Lain was free after his release.
“I’m very respectful of the pain that they’ve gone through and their entire ordeal the last 30 years…,” he said. “It was my intent to notify (the Fitzpatricks) of when that date came, but I didn’t hear from Iowa until it happened.”
Fitzpatrick was just 20 minutes shy of his 29th birthday when he responded late on Sept. 7, 1982, to Columbia Park in the Richland Y for a routine call of a car prowler.
Lain attacked Fitzpatrick, first stabbing him seven times and then grabbing the officer’s gun and shooting him once under his protective vest and once on his chin. A 2005 psychological report for Lain said, “There was no question that he intended to kill the office[r].”
His criminal history includes stabbing a man with a knife in Iowa in 1976, and blinding an inmate by throwing acid in the man’s face while in prison for the knife fight.
I’m very respectful of the pain that they’ve gone through and their entire ordeal the last 30 years.... It was my intent to notify (the Fitzpatricks) of when that date came, but I didn’t hear from Iowa until it happened.
Nicholas Brown, Gov. Jay Inslee’s general counsel
A Benton County rejected Lain’s claim that he was insane when he attacked Fitzpatrick, and convicted him of first-degree assault with a deadly weapon and vehicle prowling. He was sentenced to life in prison, but the review board in 1983 set his minimum term at 20 years because of state sentencing reform.
Lain has said he’s “truly sorry for the pain and suffering” he caused Fitzpatrick and his family and wishes he could take back what he did, claiming he was abusing alcohol when he attacked the officer.
At the time of his release, Lain had served 34 years and four months in state custody. The standard range for his crimes in 1982 was six years and five months to eight year and nine months.
Lain was moved to Fort Dodge Correctional Facility, a medium-security prison in Iowa, in late 2015 in preparation for his eventual release.
Jeremy Barclay, a spokesman with the Washington Department of Corrections, said the move would have been done as part of an interstate compact transfer. The intent is so the offender can start developing community resources and making connections with supervision officers.
Lain will be on parole through April 16, 2020. While the Iowa Department of Corrections will supervise him, Lain remains under Washington’s control and is to be sent back if he violates any conditions.
In addition to the standard conditions, Lain cannot return to Washington without written permission from a supervisor and the review board. He also must wear a GPS tracking bracelet while he’s in the residential treatment facility and for at least his first three months in the community.