Seventeen-year-old Emily Welk, appearing in court Tuesday with neatly braided hair and wearing a white dress, admitted shooting Richard “Rico” Perez to death last summer after arguing over a can of beer.
Prosecutors want the Spokane teenager put away for 15 years. At sentencing Feb. 11, they’ll argue that she shot Perez, 24, in the back and is capable of killing again.
Defense attorney Carl Maxey will claim Welk acted in self-defense and deserves no more than 11 years in prison.
Last August, Welk pulled a .25-caliber handgun from her shorts and shot Perez in an east Spokane apartment after he punched her. He wasn’t armed and had grabbed a panel of wood to protect himself just before the shooting, witnesses told police.
Prosecutors first charged Welk with second-degree murder, then arranged a plea bargain in which she pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter.
“It was clear that self-defense could have been an issue,” said Deputy Prosecutor John Love, adding that there were also witness-credibility problems.
Welk also pleaded guilty Tuesday to two assault charges stemming from a separate shooting incident last June. Welk came to a different Spokane residence to buy drugs, then got into an argument with one of the women there, authorities said.
Pushed outside by one of the woman’s male friends, Welk fired a handgun through a door, with the bullet barely missing two people inside.
State sentencing guidelines would slam Welk harder for assault than manslaughter, said Superior Court Judge Robert Austin.
The sentence for manslaughter ranges from four to six years. A first-degree assault conviction carries 11 to 15 years.
Former friends said Welk, who grew up on the South Hill and got caught up in gang violence, never met Perez before Aug. 12.
That night, Welk came to the East First apartment with another friend who knew one of the residents.
Around 10 p.m., Perez came up to Welk and allegedly grabbed a can of beer she was holding.
Welk complained, telling him to ask first, according to police reports.
After an angry exchange, Welk said Perez punched her in the face, sending her crashing into a wall. Shortly after that, she pulled out the gun and fired once.
“She was in fear of her life,” Maxey said Tuesday. “He was more than 6 feet tall, weighed about 175 pounds, and had already hit her once. He said he was about to get his girlfriend to kill her.”
Maxey, however, said he encouraged his client to accept the plea bargain after learning Welk was being investigated for other assaults. Under the deal with prosecutors, no additional charges will be filed.
The fiancee of the slain man said Tuesday she wanted Welk to stand trial on the murder charge.
“I just hope the judge makes sure she gets the maximum sentence,” said Tavia Johnson of Spokane.