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Sirens & Gavels

Posts tagged: self defense

911 call in homeowner shooting released

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In this file photo, Doug Snarski, 55, stands at the top of the stairs where he shot an intruder in his home last month. (SR/Jesse Tinsley)

A Newman Lake homeowner did nothing wrong when he shot his girlfriend’s ex to death after being threatened by him with guns last month, prosecutors say.

Spokane County prosecutors said Tuesday that no criminal charges will be filed against Doug Snarski, 55, for the homicide of Sean Parsons on May 13.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

May 15: Man shoots, kills armed intruder

WARNING: THE 911 CALL POSTED ABOVE CONTAINS CRUDE LANGUAGE AND GUN VIOLENCE.

Homeowner shoots, kills intruder

Doug Snarski knew someone was going to die when he realized his girlfriend’s ex was inside their home early Sunday.

The intruder, Sean Parsons, was armed with a shotgun, a handgun, a belt stocked with ammunition and yelling about how no one would be getting out of the house alive. Parsons had arrived at the Newman Lake home about 12:30 a.m. - just hours after he’d been served with a restraining order that prohibited him from going within two miles of the house.

“He didn’t come here to get on my Christmas list,” Snarski said Monday at his home, where he’s lived for 27 years. “He was on a mission to kill.”

Read the rest of my story here.

Pharmacist who killed robber gets life

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — An Oklahoma pharmacist convicted of murder in the shooting death of a teenager who tried to rob the south Oklahoma City pharmacy where he worked was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole Monday in spite of his defense attorney and supporters' pleas that he be set free.

Jerome Ersland, 59, showed no emotion as District Judge Ray Elliott imposed the sentence recommended by a 12-member jury that found Ersland guilty of first-degree murder in the May 19, 2009, shooting death of 16-year-old Antwun Parker during an attempted robbery at the Reliable Discount Pharmacy.

Ersland claimed he was defending himself and two female co-workers when he shot Parker after he and a second teenager came into the pharmacy wearing ski masks and demanding money and drugs. Parker, who was unarmed, was struck in the head and knocked out. Ersland chased the second armed teen, Jevontai Ingram, now 16, out of the store.

Prosecutors said Ersland was justified in firing the first shot but went too far when he grabbed a second gun and fired five more bullets into Parker's abdomen, wounds that the Medical Examiner's Office said killed him.

Ersland claimed the unconscious teen was still moving.

Ersland, shackled at the hands and feet in a jail-issued jumpsuit, stood before Elliott while defense attorney Irven Box asked the judge to suspend the life sentence.

When the judge asked if he had anything to say, Ersland replied: “I don't have anything to say. Thank you.” Later, as he was led from court by sheriff's deputies, he responded to a reporter's shouted question by calling the sentence “an injustice of a monumental proportion.”

Read the rest of the Associated Press story by clicking the link below.

Arrests made in love triangle stabbing

A man accused of stabbing his lover's estranged husband last week has been arrested for assault.

Spokane police initially said Dumont P. Whitt, 35, may have stabbed Robert D. McQueen in self defense after McQueen confronted him and McQueen's wife, Alicia McQueen, in a home at 2415 E. 1st about 2 a.m. on Dec. 28. But Whitt stabbed McQueen too many times for the case to be considered self defense, said Officer Jennifer DeRuwe, spokeswoman for the Spokane Police Department.
 
The McQueens used to live at the home but Robert McQueen, 35, moved out in late November, according to court documents. He was hospitalized with critical injuries from several stab wounds but has since improved and was booked into jail for trespassing on Wednesday, police said today. 
 
Alicia McQueen told police that Robert McQueen broke into a bedroom window and attacked her before fighting with Whitt, according to a search warrant. 
 
Robert McQueen left after yelling “you stabbed me,” police said. Alicia McQueen told police she keeps a steak knife by her bed for protection.
 
Whitt appeared in Spokane County Superior Court today on one count of first-degree assault.

Guard’s family, killer hope for closure

The family of a security guard killed last summer has spent hours poring over the 700-page police investigation, reviewing crime scene photos and highlighting what they say are discrepancies in witness accounts.

The shooter, Jason Hartell, told The Spokesman-Review that he’s positive he saw the guard, George Al Hayek, holding a gun, but according to the police report, he told detectives it may have been a cell phone.

Meanwhile, there was no Christmas celebration for Al Hayek’s family, who moved to the United States from the Bethlehem area about eight years ago. 

Their Palestinian Christian heritage calls for years of skipped celebrations after a tragic loss, and the loss of their youngest son is tragic beyond words.

Hartell said he thinks of their son every day.

“There’s not a night I don’t see his face. That poor guy. I feel so bad for his family,” Hartell said. “My life’s just been hell.”

Read my full story here.

Past coverage:

Sept. 1: Family seeks answers in security guard's death

Gunman gets 63 years for 2 murders

A Spokane man who gunned down two men in a dispute over a car trade has been sentenced to nearly 63 years in prison.

Merle W. Harvey, 28, is in jail awaiting transport to state prison after Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen sentenced him on Friday to 753 months in prison.

A jury convicted him in late September of first-degree murder, second-degree murder and two counts of first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm for the Sept. 26, 2009, killings of 41-year-old Jack T. Lamere and 45-year-old Jacob J. Potter.

Harvey had claimed self defense. He declined to speak at the hearing, which included testimony from victim family members. He was ordered to serve consecutive sentences for the murders with an extra 10 years because two firearms were used.

Defense lawyer Scott Mason had requested a sentence of 40 years. But Eitzen pointed out that she’d sentenced Harvey to an exceptionally low sentence after he was convicted of first-degree assault in 2000. She believed he would turn his life around then, but he proved her wrong.

Sept. 29, 2010: Harvey convicted of 2 murders

Sept. 23, 2010: Forced haircut preluded double homicide

Sept. 16, 2010 : Trial begins in double homicide over cars

Sept. 28, 2009: Suspect at large after shooting

Sept. 29, 2009: Victim had sought new life

Oct. 9, 2009: Hells Angels vowed to kill murder victim 10 years ago

Oct. 17, 2009: Man says he killed in self defense

Brothers involved in bizarre shooting

A man shot and killed by his brother near Elk on Saturday has been identified as David A. Ruthruff, 41.

Ruthruff died of a single gunshot to his chest, according to the Spokane County Medical Examiner’s Office, which conducted an autopsy Monday.

Ruthruff’s brother, whose name has not been released, told deputies he was outside in the dark in the 13000 block of East Bridges Road when he was attacked by an unknown person about 8:30 p.m.

He retrieved a gun from the home and fired at the intruder, not knowing it was his brother, the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office said.

No arrests have been made.

Ruthruff’s girlfriend was questioned by deputies, as were his brother and his brother’s wife, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

Harvey guilty of 2 murders over car trade

A Spokane man faces a minimum of 45 years in prison after a jury convicted him Wednesday of two counts of murder that followed a dispute over a car swap.

The jury convicted 28-year-old Merle W. Harvey of first-degree murder in connection with the shooting death Sept. 26, 2009, of 41-year-old Jack T. Lamere.

The jury also convicted Harvey of second-degree murder for the killing of 45-year-old Jacob J. Potter, who just happened to be with Lamere on the day of the shooting.

Spokane County Prosecutor Deputy Dale Nagy said Harvey faces a minimum of 45 years because the murder convictions must be served consecutively.

The jury found that Harvey used a gun in the commission of the killings, which added 10 years to the murder sentences. The sentencing date is set for 3 p.m. on Oct. 22.

“I think it was a just verdict,” Nagy said. “And most importantly … the family is pleased.”

Terry Eaglefeather, 67, who is Lamere’s uncle, yelled “all right” as Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen read the verdict.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse’s story here.

View photos of the victims and read background on the case here.

No charges in fatal Rathdrum stabbing

No charges will be filed against a Rathdrum man in the Sept. 24 stabbing death of his daughter’s boyfriend, Kootenai County Prosecuting Attorney Barry McHugh announced today.

Based on the investigation by the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Department, 47-year-old Scott A. Johnson was acting in self-defense when he fatally stabbed Brandon S. DeLuca after an argument in their Rathdrum home.

“This is a tragedy that no one, including the Johnson family, wanted to take place,” McHugh said in a news release.

Read the rest of Chelsea Bannach’s story here.

Past coverage: Sept. 27: Slain man is deputy coroner’s grandson

Deliberations begin in double-murder trial

A jury of six men and six women began deliberating this morning whether a Spokane man murdered two men last September or was defending himself when he gunned them down.

 Merle W. Harvey, 28, faces two counts of first-degree murder in connection with the killings on Sept. 26, 2009, of 41-year-old Jack T. Lamere and 45-year-old Jacob J. Potter.

Jurors have the option of convicting Harvey of lesser charges like second-degree murder or manslaughter.

Harvey, a convicted felon, claims he shot Lamere in self-defense after Lamere brought a gun to a dispute over a vehicle. Harvey said he thought he saw Potter - who was with Lamere at the time - put a gun in his shirt, but it turned out to be a flashlight.

After the shooting outside an apartment complex at 1310 W. Boone Ave., Harvey stole a truck in Spokane. He drove it to Coeur d’Alene where he stole another vehicle before he was finally apprehended in Kennewick on Oct. 10, 2009.

Testimony in the trial, which began Sept. 16, included a host of familiar names as witnesses described the weeks of unreported threats - and one unwanted haircut - that led to the gunfire.

Past coverage:

Sept. 23: Forced haircut preluded double homicide

Sept. 16, 2010 : Trial begins in double homicide over cars

Sept. 28, 2009: Suspect at large after shooting

Sept. 29, 2009: Victim had sought new life

Oct. 9, 2009: Hells Angels vowed to kill murder victim 10 years ago

Oct. 17, 2009: Man says he killed in self defense

Oct. 19, 2009: Stolen jeep had ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ coin inside

Forced haircut preluded double homicide

Testimony in a Spokane County double-homicide trial expected to end next week includes a host of familiar names as witnesses describe the weeks of unreported threats - and one unwanted haircut - that led to the September 2009 gunfire.

Merle W. Harvey, 28, (right) feared Jack T. Lamere and had been threatened by him several times, Harvey’s mother and best friend testified Wednesday.

Lamere’s friend Dare Douglas had brawled with Harvey’s girlfriend, Diane L. Richardson, and tow truck driver Richard Ziesmer had reportedly taken calls from Harvey lamenting a car trade and threatening Lamere. According to testimony, Lamere often visited Harvey’s home, including once with a man prosecutors called Matt Short - a 6-foot-1, red-haired man who was Wednesday’s Crime Stoppers’ fugitive.

Harvey killed Lamere, 41, and Jacob J. Potter , 45, (left) on Sept. 26, 2009, in what he says was self defense but prosecutors say was a planned murder out of revenge for weeks of problems with Lamere over a car dispute. Harvey said Lamere took his Chevy Blazer for a test drive and never returned, leaving him with a title-less Cadillac he couldn’t drive.

Court testimony on Wednesday described a bizarre altercation weeks before the homicides in which Lamere arrived at Harvey’s East Rich Avenue trailer, instructed him to sit down and be quiet, then forcefully cut Richardson’s hair.

When Harvey visited Lamere later, Lamere had knives and scalping instruments displayed on a table, along with Richardson’s braided hair, according to court testimony.

Some time later, Richardson brawled with Douglas, said Harvey’s mother, Faith Harvey. Lamere learned of the fight and called Harvey, threatening him, according to court testimony.

“He said that Merle was going to be dead,” Faith Harvey testified.

She said her son and his girlfriend were so frightened they went camping for several days. Lamere (right) visited the home several times while they were gone. He often bragged about his past time in federal prison and told Faith Harvey he’d committed “violent, heinous crimes,” she said. (Read more about Lamere here.)

Faith Harvey was the first defense witness to testify.

The prosecution’s last witness, Spokane police Detective Chet Gilmore, testified Wednesday morning, saying that though both Lamere and Potter had brass knuckles, Harvey didn’t mention the weapons after his arrest.

Gilmore said Harvey told him he shot the men on purpose and said Potter “was ready to F us up.”

He said Potter was wearing spiked brass knuckles and carrying a pistol-gripped black flashlight, but that Harvey claimed Potter had hidden a black handgun under his shirt. Gilmore said it would “probably” be difficult to hide the flashlight under a shirt.

It’s undisputed that Lamere was carrying a handgun when he was killed. Lamere’s girlfriend, April Fletcher, also had a knife, but Gilmore said Harvey admitted to never seeing Fletcher, thus the knife has no bearing on the case.

Harvey’s friend Aaron Cunningham (left) testified that he feared Lamere because Lamere held a gun to his head during a meeting over the car trade.

He said Lamere bragged about his history as a torturer “and said that he’s not afraid to do it again,” Cunningham said.

Testimony is to resume Monday at 9:30 a.m.

Past coverage:

Sept. 16, 2010 : Trial begins in double homicide over cars

Sept. 28, 2009: Suspect at large after shooting

Sept. 29, 2009: Victim had sought new life

Oct. 9, 2009: Hells Angels vowed to kill murder victim 10 years ago

Oct. 17, 2009: Man says he killed in self defense

Oct. 19, 2009: Stolen jeep had ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ coin inside

Trial begins in double homicide over cars

Trial began Wednesday for a man accused of gunning down two others in a dispute over a car trade last September. 

Merle W. Harvey said he shot Jack T. Lamere, 41, and Jacob J. Potter, 45, in self defense after the men, who were high on methamphetamine, threatened him with weapons.

But prosecutors contend 28-year-old Harvey, convicted of felony first-degree assault for a shooting 10 years ago, planned the slayings and then lied about what happened to investigators when he was arrested after two weeks on the run.

Opening statements were given Wednesday afternoon, followed by testimony from one of the first responding police officers. The trial is expected to last through next week, said Deputy Prosecutor Dale Nagy.

  Harvey shot Lamere and Potter to death Sept. 26 in the parking lot of Lamere’s apartment at 1310 W. Boone Ave., then fled with his girlfriend at the time, Diane L. Richardson.

They were arrested Oct. 10 while walking in a field in Kennewick after allegedly stealing jeep in Coeur d’Alene, then crashing it into a canal in the Tri-Cities following a shoplifting incident at a convenience store.

Richardson pleaded guilty to first-degree rendering criminal assistance in February and was sentenced to six months in jail with credit for time served.

Harvey is charged with two counts of first-degree murder. He’s said since he was first arrested that he shot Lamere and Potter in self defense after the men surrounded his truck with guns.

He said he wasn’t looking for the men that night but spotted his Chevy Blazer in the parking lot while driving with Richardson.

Harvey said Lamere, who had been released from prison in September 2008, had taken his Blazer for a test drive but never turned it and left Harvey with a Cadillac but no title.

Harvey said he called Lamere (left) repeatedly asking for the title but didn’t get anywhere.

“The problem was compounded by the fact that Merle was aware of Jack’s history of violence and torture,” according to court documents prepared by Merle’s lawyer, Scott Mason. “Jack was a convicted felon, known as a debt collector (“taxman”) and enforcer. He often carried a knife and/or brass knuckles.” 

Harvey said Lamere refused to give him his Blazer without the Cadillac, so Richardson borrowed and STA security guard’s cell phone to have the car driven to the parking lot.

While Richardson was gone, Lamere and his girlfriend, April Fletcher, armed themselves with a gun and knife. Lamere and Potter each had a pair of brass knuckles; Potter’s were spiked, according to court documents.

Police photos show a metal baseball bat and knife on the floor of the car Lamere had been working on; a loaded gun was in a nearby toolbox, and another knife was in the bed of a truck, according to court documents. Lamere and Potter had high levels of meth in their bloodstream.

Harvey shot the men with two guns but “it was not until the scene became hostile and Merle felt Diana’s and his life were being threatened that he revealed the weapons and fired,” Mason said in court documents.

But other witnesses dispute Harvey’s account, prosecutors say. According to court documents, one man told police he heard the shooter “say something to the effect of, ‘This is for ripping me off.’”

And Richard Ziesmer, a tow truck driver who worked with Lamere, said Harvey had called threatening the men in the days leading up to the shooting.

Ziesmer told The Spokesman-Review in June that his court paperwork had been getting mistakenly mailed to Harvey’s mother’s home. Ziesmer says he learned of the mix up when he found the paperwork stuck to his tow yard fence with the word “snitch” scrawled on it.

Harvey’s mother, 55-year-old Faith M. Harvey is expected to testify. She was jailed Tuesday on a material witness warrant.

The trial resumes this morning before Spokane County Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen.

Past coverage:

Sept. 28: Suspect at large after shooting

Sept. 29: Victim had sought new life

Oct. 9: Hells Angels vowed to kill murder victim 10 years ago

Oct. 17: Man says he killed in self defense

Oct. 19: Stolen jeep had ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ coin inside

Off-duty WSP trooper shoots home intruder

PORT ORCHARD, Wash. (AP) — An off-duty Washington State Patrol trooper shot and killed an intruder who attacked him at his south Kitsap home, according to the Kitsap County sheriff’s office.

An investigation continues, bu the sheriff’s office says it appears the trooper went outside Saturday shortly before midnight to check out a car on his property. When he identified himself as a law enforcement officer to the driver, a fight began and the trooper was struck in the head by a steel rod. Deputies say the trooper was able to struggle to his feet and when his attacker refused to comply with his commands, resorted to lethal force.

The name of the shooting victim, believed to be a 30-year-old South Kitsap man, was not immediately released. He was pronounced dead at Tacoma General Hospital. The trooper was taken to St. Anthony’s Hospital in Gig Harbor for treatment.

Family seeks answers in guard’s death

Eight years ago, Bassam Al Hayek left a little town near Bethlehem to start a new life away from the political and religious crossfire.

He and his wife settled in Spokane, far away from the Middle East violence he saw as an Arab Christian in the Palestinian territories.

“We knew we would be killed sooner or later,” Al Hayek said of living in the midst of fighting between fundamentalist Muslims and Israeli troops, according to a 2008 Spokesman-Review article. “It was just a matter of by whom and when.”

This week, Al Hayek sat in the living room of his northwest Spokane home, examining pictures of his youngest son’s body. His son, George B. Al Hayek, 26, was the private security officer who was shot to death last week during an altercation with a group of people in an alley outside an east Spokane apartment complex. (Al Hayek is pictured right with son Issa. A memorial to George is pictured above.) 

Police found the gunman, Jason M. Hartell, performing CPR on Al Hayek when they arrived after the shooting, which occurred before 11 p.m. Aug. 24 between the Pepsi bottling plant at 4014 E. Sprague Ave. and the Pacific Plaza Apartments, 4023 E. Pacific Ave. Hartell says he fired in self-defense. 

Read my full story here.

Past coverage:

Aug. 26: Witnesses say slain security guard confronted group

Bassam Al Hayek is a celebrated Palestinian artist (he’s pictured at right in 2008).

Here are past stories about him:

May 22, 2005: Carving a new life

Dec. 24, 2005: Spreading his wings

March 20, 2008: Far away from West Bank, part 1

April 10, 2008: Far away from West Bank, part 2

Jury acquits gunman in rapper Dolla’s killing

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A jury has acquitted a man of killing Atlanta rapper Dolla during a shooting at an upscale Los Angeles mall.

Jurors on Friday rejected prosecutors’ contentions that the killing of Dolla, whose real name was Roderick Anthony Burton II (left), was a callous act of apparent revenge.

Burton and his accused shooter, Aubrey Louis Berry, had been involved in a fight at an Atlanta club less than two weeks before the shooting last May.

Berry (right) hugged his attorney after the verdict was read while Burton’s family sobbed.

Berry’s attorney had contended the shooting was an act of self-defense, emphasizing that Burton glorified a violent gangster lifestyle in his rap lyrics and online videos.

The rapper was a protege of hip-hop artist Akon. 

According to an LA Times story available on the AP wire, gangster rap has long drawn fire for its violence-laced lyrics. Critics have blamed the genre for inciting real crime. Some successful rappers have been accused of violent crimes, and in other cases, suspects have told authorities that gangster rap songs provoked them to violence.

But the murder trial of Berry, a 24-year-old events promoter from Atlanta, is unusual in the way it has focused attention on the artistic work of someone who was the victim of violence.

Read the full story by clicking the link below.

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