May 5—A man who shot at a Vancouver police patrol vehicle as the officer investigated a complaint regarding gunshots at an apartment complex was sentenced Tuesday to eight years in prison.
Joseph Andrew Ezetta, 50, of Vancouver pleaded guilty in Clark County Superior Court to amended charges of attempted first-degree assault and reckless endangerment stemming from the June 9, 2019, incident at the One Lake Place Apartments.
Police were called at about 4 a.m. to 5264 N.E. 121st Ave. after multiple callers reported hearing gunshots. The first arriving officer drove his patrol vehicle along the south side of the complex when he heard a number of gunshots nearby. The officer drove out of the complex to a safer location, according to an affidavit of probable cause.
Officers who convened nearby said they saw a suspicious man leave the complex and begin walking toward them.
They ordered the man, later identified as Ezetta, to stop, but he ignored them. Officers physically stopped Ezetta and found a 9 mm handgun on him, which was warm to the touch as if it had been recently fired, the affidavit says.
As Ezetta was detained, an officer said they heard someone screaming. Believing it may have come from Ezetta's apartment, they went inside and found numerous firearms, gun cases and ammunition out in the open, court records state.
Officers also located a number of 9 mm shell casings on the walkways and stairwells leading to his residence, as well as bullet strikes and fragments on a tree, metal post and the concrete near the entrance of the complex — where the officer was driving, according to the affidavit.
They then discovered that the officer's vehicle had been struck by a bullet that passed through the right rear bumper, court records say.
Police learned Ezetta was arrested for driving under the influence by Washington State Patrol earlier that night and was released after being processed, the affidavit states.
On Tuesday, his defense attorney, Steve Thayer, said Ezetta — who served his country and was at one time a corrections officer in Clark County — has struggled with alcohol addiction for years.
"He wasn't in his right mind when this happened. He was just out of his mind drunk," Thayer said.
Thayer asked the judge to follow the attorneys' agreed-upon sentencing recommendation of 96 months, which included a deadly weapon enhancement.
Ezetta apologized to the officer, who did not appear to be in court, and said he's ready to make lifestyle changes to ensure nothing like this happens again.
"I guess sad is really the only word that comes into my mind at this particular time," Judge Jennifer Snider said of the situation.
Ezetta's issues with alcohol were the impetus for the incident, Snider said, though not an excuse. She said he was lucky no one was injured.