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Detective declared ‘not guilty’ in domestic case

A former Island County Sheriff detective charged for domestic violence in June was recently declared not guilty in Skagit County District Court.

Mike Birchfield, who resigned from the Island County Sheriff’s Office in November, was arrested on two allegations of domestic violence against his wife, Valeri, on June 19. A resident of rural Oak Harbor, Birchfield was charged with domestic assault in the fourth degree and interfering with reporting for allegedly preventing Valeri, 37, from calling 911.

According to Skagit County District Court dockets, Birchfield, 46, was found not guilty of domestic assault because the court found that he only defended himself during a physical altercation between he and his wife on June 19. On the second charge of preventing his wife from calling 911, the charge was dismissed.

In a recent interview, Birchfield said he was relieved to have the case resolved. The case was investigated by the Oak Harbor Police Department to avoid a conflict of interest, but Birchfield felt it was poorly handled and investigated by the department.

“They wanted to make an example out of me and they wanted me out of law enforcement,” he said.

Birchfield said the incident that led to the 911 call from his wife was the result of an argument he and his wife had had after they both were stressed from working in overtime jobs.

“Things got out of hand,” he said. “It was a situation neither one of us wanted to be in.”

Birchfield said earlier allegations that he had ripped a phone from a wall were untrue and unfounded. He said Valeri Birchfield had picked up a phone in the bedroom to call 911, but left the residence after she found it wasn’t plugged into the wall. He said investigators from the Oak Harbor Police Department photographed the phone as evidence, but were not able to prove the phone had been ripped from the wall, so the charge was dismissed in court.

Birchfield said his wife was on pain medication for an existing back injury when she gave a statement to police. When she went to the police department several days later, she was not allowed to review her own statements. Birchfield said at that time, his wife gave a new, more coherent statement while not on her prescribed narcotics.

Because there was a no-contact order in affect between husband and wife, Birchfield said he did not know his wife had made the second statement to clarify the incident.

Birchfield said it was important to him that the jury found he had acted in self defense during the physical altercation between the couple, and had dismissed the charge of preventing his wife from reporting the incident.

“To me, that says a lot,” he said.

During the legal process this fall, Birchfield said he decided to resign from the Island County Sheriff’s Office. It was not a decision he wanted to make, but felt he did not have the support of the sheriff’s administration.

“They were bound and determined to have me guilty,” he said. “I really regret resigning but I felt I had no choice.”

In addition to his 12 years with the Island County Sheriff’s Office, Birchfield also worked for three years with the Langley Police Department. Previously, he had been in the Navy for eight years, which over two years he spent as a security officer. Birchfield said he did not have clear plans for his future unemployment.

“I really didn’t want to give up law enforcement,” he said. “But I don’t know if that will be an option somewhere else.”

Birchfield said he now feels relief and a slight vindication after the trial, but is still unsettled by the way the Oak Harbor Police Department investigated the case.

“I really enjoyed my job and I really enjoyed serving the people of Island County,” he said. “I’m really going to miss it.”

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