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Man kills 1 intruder, injures 2nd
Parkland resident shoots men trying to enter his apartment early Tuesday
Parkland, Washington, June 7, 2000
http://www.tribnet.com/news/top_stories/0607b13.html

Stefano Esposito

A Parkland resident fatally shot one man and injured another early Tuesday, apparently foiling an attempted break-in at the Parkland man's apartment.

Investigators said the shootings appear to have been in self-defense.

Police hadn't nailed down a possible motive for the break-in Tuesday. But the deceased and his suspected accomplice targeted the apartment in the 700 block of South 115th Street, Pierce County sheriff's spokesman Jerry Bates said.

One of the suspects, a 21-year-old man, was pronounced dead shortly after arriving at Madigan Army Medical Center, Bates said.

Police arrested the other man, a 23-year-old, just blocks from the shooting. After being shot in the chest, he fled the apartment in a older-model Cadillac.

That suspect also was taken to Madigan. His condition was not available Tuesday night.

Investigators did not release the names of the shooter, the deceased or the injured man Tuesday.

Police were uncertain if the suspects knew the apartment's resident or his girlfriend, who were both in the apartment at the time of the early-morning incident.

Pierce County deputy prosecutor Gerry Horne said it appears the Parkland man did nothing illegal.

"From what we know now - and we will continue to look at it closely - this is not even a close call," he said.

"It appears to be justifiable homicide."

Neither the Parkland man nor his girlfriend could be reached for comment Tuesday.

Pierce County investigators couldn't recall any recent cases in which a resident killed an intruder.

News Tribune files turned up a case in the spring of 1998 in which a 47-year-old Summit-area man shot and killed a 13-year-old boy, Travis Duncan. Prosecutors did not charge the homeowner in that killing because Duncan was burglarizing the home at the time.

Tuesday's events unfolded shortly after 1 a.m., when the Parkland man and his girlfriend were either "startled or awakened" by a loud pounding on their front door, deputies said. Fearing for his safety, the Parkland man armed himself with a handgun.

The pounding noises shifted to the rear of the one-story apartment, police said.

The couple then heard the sound of breaking glass and a door being opened, police said. At that point, the girlfriend called 911.

Investigators are still sorting through the details of what happened next, but at some point the Parkland man shot the intruders.

It also appears the dead man was armed with a handgun. Deputies found a gun at the apartment that "physical evidence suggests was in the possession of the deceased," Bates said.

Police also found a "burglary tool" near the break-in area, Bates added.

About an hour before the shootings, the couple's next-door neighbor said she was having a cigarette on her porch when she noticed two men pull up in an older-model, light-colored Cadillac - a car that seemed to match the one the injured man was found in.

The neighbor, 49-year-old Chris Champlin, said the two men got out of the car and one of them noticed her.

The two men got back in the car and left.

Champlin said she remembered the car because its muffler made a distinctive sound - a sound she heard again about the time the shootings occurred. Champlin said she was in bed at the time.

Meanwhile, police planned to listen today to a tape of the 911 call.

The girlfriend was on the telephone with dispatchers when the shooting occurred, Bates said.

Investigators interviewed the couple separately and later released them.

The couple were staying Tuesday with relatives who live nearby, said David Johnson, owner of three-apartment complex where the shootings occurred.

They have lived in the apartment since the beginning of this year, Johnson said.

They had a young girl living with them, but she was with relatives at the time of the shootings, Johnson said.

Johnson also said the couple sometimes were "bothered by people trying to find the previous tenants."

* Reach staff writer Stefano Esposito at 253-597-8644 or stefano.esposito@mail.tribnet.com.

SIDEBAR: Acting in self-defense

Pierce County Prosecutor John Ladenburg said Tuesday he can't recall a case in which his office charged a householder who claimed self-defense in killing an intruder.

And even if Ladenburg wanted to, Washington's case law and statutes wouldn't permit it, he said.

"As soon as you have a reasonable fear of grave bodily injury or death, then you can use deadly force - even if you turn out to be wrong about what you perceived to be the facts," Ladenburg said.

Grave bodily injury can mean something as simple as a fear of broken bones, Ladenburg said.

"Washington law is as broad as it gets," he added. "Parts of our law are so broad it would allow you to shoot first and ask questions later."

That doesn't mean fatal force is acceptable under any circumstances, he said. If, by shooting an intruder you disable him so that he's no longer a threat, you can't then "finish him off," Ladenburg said.

- Stefano Esposito, The News Tribune   06/07/2000


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