BELLINGHAM — A 24-yearold man was in Whatcom County Jail Monday after a scuffle with a Whatcom County Courthouse guard.

County spokesman Joe Bates identified the suspect as Christopher Smith, a transient from Coquitlam, B.C. Bates said Smith did not appear to have a criminal record. He was being held on suspicion of thirddegree assault.

George Reid, the county’s security and telecommunications manager, said a man entered the Courthouse rotunda at about 2 p.m. and began verbally abusing a receptionist at the front desk. Guard Jim Hertz, site supervisor for Olympic Security Services, approached the man and told him to stop, but the man turned and punched Hertz in the head, sending him tumbling backward down a small flight of stairs.

Reid said Hertz suffered a head cut that required stitches, but he likely would be back on the job in a day or two.

Several citizens who witnessed the incident followed the man at a safe distance and relayed his movements to 911 dispatchers by cell phone, Reid said. Sheriff’s deputies caught Smith a few blocks away.