OLYMPIA -- A man who stabbed and shot a Richland police officer 28 years ago will remain in prison after Gov. Chris Gregoire blocked a parole board's decision.
The governor's move means Jerry Dean Lain, 53, will stay behind bars in Washington instead of going back to Iowa, where he is wanted on a parole violation from three decades ago. He was to be released Monday.
The man he almost killed on Sept. 7, 1982, welcomed the news.
"I'm pretty relieved," said Mike Fitzpatrick, the former Richland cop who Lain attacked in Kennewick's Columbia Park. "That's really an understatement."
Fitzpatrick has made his voice heard every time his would-be killer has come up for parole. He had to, he said, to keep others safe.
"I'm convinced we saved somebody's life today," he said Friday, after hearing of the governor's decision late Thursday night.
Fitzpatrick was called that night in 1982 to check on a car prowler and chased Lain on foot. In a brutal fight, Lain stabbed the officer seven times with such force that the knife broke off in Fitzpatrick's protective vest.
Lain wrested Fitzpatrick's service revolver from him, wedged the gun under his vest and fired. Then he put the gun on Fitzpatrick's chin and fired again.
Miraculously, Fitzpatrick survived. He now works undercover in law enforcement at the state level.
Fitzpatrick has spent the past 28 years making sure Lain's original sentence would be honored.
The late Superior Court Judge Al Yencopal sentenced Lain to life in prison. But in 1984 sentencing guidelines were established in Washington, and soon after the State Supreme Court decided those sentenced before the reform had the right to have their sentences reviewed by the state Indeterminate Sentence Review Board.
The board shortened Lain's sentence to 20 years. But each time he came up for a release review, his poor record in prison moved the board to extend his sentence.
Last year, however, the board decided Lain had shown sufficient progress in prison to be eligible for conditional parole, said Lynne DeLano, the board's chairwoman. DeLano was not on the board when the decision was made, she said.
But events in late 2009 kept Lain in prison instead of being put into a transitional work release program, DeLano said.
And last year, several police officers were killed in Western Washington, including four officers gunned down by parolee Maurice Clemmons in Lakewood.
That meant Lain, who already couldn't be released to Eastern Washington out of respect for his victim, couldn't be released in the west side either, DeLano said.
But in March, the board found Lain fit for parole and "wanted him to participate in a transitional plan," DeLano said. He would be released to go to his home state.
But Gregoire took advantage of a little-used provision to overrule that decision.
"It is rare for a governor to exercise this power," Gregoire told The Associated Press. "But I reviewed the case and concluded there is an unacceptable level of risk to public safety here that called for me to act."
The process is so foreign to state officials that on Friday nobody could say when Lain might be up for parole again, or if he could appeal the governor's decision.
The governor's veto power was used only once in recent memory -- by Gov. John Spellman in 1984, DeLano said.
Gregoire told the AP that although Lain has made "creditable gains" during his time in prison, "I conclude that his rehabilitation is not complete, and he is not a fit subject for release from prison."
Lain has had 18 infractions during his time in prison, and a 2009 evaluation found him "at a high risk of recidivism for both general and violent crimes in the range of medium to high risk," the AP reported.
"The governor looked at exactly the same material we did but came to a different conclusion," DeLano said.
DeLano said Lain will likely come back before the review board to determine for how long he will go back to prison.
Richland police Capt. Mike Cobb, who was working the night Fitzpatrick was almost killed, said it was nice to see Gregoire is as good as her word.
"She spoke at (police) funerals in Pierce County and Seattle and Lakewood and promised to do all she could to keep these horrible things from happening ever again," Cobb said.
He said it's important to keep people like Lain, who repeatedly showed violent acts, locked up.
Cobb said he was frustrated knowing there are people on the state review board who actually decided to release Lain.
"Words begin to fail when I think of the logic that would compel them to make that decision," he said. "Obviously, the Indeterminate Sentence Review Board has a memory short enough to not include 2009."
But, Cobb said he respects Gregoire's decision because it would help prevent families and other police officers from having to go to funerals.
"Gov. Gregoire has saved an officer's life," Cobb said.
The board's decision was "absurd," Fitzpatrick said. "He was at high risk to re-offend."
Fitzpatrick said he hasn't seen Lain since that night in 1982 and doesn't want to.
The attack was life-changing, he said, but "you learn to live with it and you just don't dwell on it."
For now, Fitzpatrick is grateful to the governor.
"That was probably a tough decision," he said. "Thanks boss; it was the right thing to do."