A homeless man accused of hitting a man over the head with a hatchet pleaded no contest Monday to assault and tampering with a witness.

Ryan Joseph Dawson, 34, was sentenced to more than four years in prison for assault in the second degree and five years of probation for tampering with a witness.

Last August, Dawson approached Ernest Charles Bean Jr. in a homeless camp behind Goodwill in Warrenton and pointed, telling Bean to look at something in the other direction.

When Bean turned to look, Dawson began to beat him over the head with a hatchet, causing significant blood loss which almost killed him, Deputy District Attorney Dawn Buzzard said.

Dawson was originally charged with attempted murder and assault in the second degree, but the attempted murder charge was dismissed as part of his plea agreement.

“You’re a really dangerous man,” Judge Paula Brownhill told Dawson during sentencing. “You’ve killed a man before and you could have killed Mr. Bean. It’s only a matter of time until you kill someone else.”

Warrenton Detective Tyler Johnston was crucial in helping provide evidence for the case by listening to phone calls made by Dawson, Buzzard said.

Buzzard compared the case to what she described as an attack that Dawson committed in Illinois, where she said he killed a man after striking him on the head with a hammer several times. He had taken methamphetamine prior to both crimes, the prosecutor said.

“I feel like he’s going to kill somebody and that really worries me,” Buzzard said.

Nicole Bales is a reporter for The Astorian, covering police, courts and county government. Contact her at 971-704-1724 or nbales@dailyastorian.com.

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