Greenbank man left paralyzed after burglary, assault

Detectives with the Island County Sheriff’s Office traveled to the border Thursday to pick up a suspect in a July 27 burglary and assault that left a Greenbank man paralyzed, according to Detective Ed Wallace.

Detectives with the Island County Sheriff’s Office traveled to the border Thursday to pick up a suspect in a July 27 burglary and assault that left a Greenbank man paralyzed, according to Detective Ed Wallace.

Coupeville resident Paul Schmakeit, 20, made his preliminary appearance in Island County Superior Court Friday afternoon on suspicion of first-degree robbery, first-degree burglary and first-degree assault.

Schmakeit allegedly fled to Canada, where he was arrested by Canadian authorities at the Sumas border after trying to avoid a customs inspection by speeding away while armed with a handgun, according to the report by Detective James Scott.

The victim, 68-year-old Dennis Phillips, returned to his home on Witte Way in Greenbank in the early afternoon and was confronted by a man — later identified as Schmakeit — inside his house, the report states.

Schmakeit was holding a crossbow which belonged to Phillips; Schmakeit said “excuse me” as he pushed past him and out the front door, according to the report.

Phillips grabbed a shovel and went after the intruder. He told the detective that Schmakeit tackled him to the ground, landing on top of him.

Phillips continued to fight, wrapping his arms around the man and yelling, “You broke my back.” Schmakeit tried to get away and stuffed handfuls of grass into Phillips’ mouth. Phillips bit his finger.

Phillips eventually let Schmakeit go and he fled into the woods.

Phillips was unable to move or feel his legs. He lay on his back for about five hours until a friend rescued him and called the police.

The deputies found a marijuana growing room in the house with about 12 plants, which Phillips claims is a medical grow operation, according to Wallace.

Wallace said that investigators believe that the burglar was targeting the marijuana. In fact, he said Phillips has been burglarized before and he hadn’t reported it to police.

A few days after the burglary, detectives received a tip that Schmakeit and another man were at a party and bragged that they had burglarized a home and beat up the homeowner. The informant said that Schmakeit had an obvious bite wound on his finger.

Wallace said investigators aren’t certain at this point whether Schmakeit acted alone in the burglary.

On Aug. 4, a special agent with Homeland Security contacted the Island County Sheriff’s Office and informed them that Canadian authorities had Schmakeit in custody.

Schmakeit allegedly confessed to Canadian authorities that he had “ripped off a marijuana grower on Whidbey Island and broken the owner’s back,” according to the detective’s report.

Wallace said that Phillips had a prior back injury. He is being treated at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett. The latest update the detectives received was that he was paralyzed from the waist down.


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