A Chattaroy teenager suspected of shooting his girlfriend to death Wednesday claims it was an accident.
The 17-year-old boy told friends he was trying to scare the girl when he leveled a 12-gauge shotgun at her head and pulled the trigger.
“He thought the safety was on,” said a boy who talked to the suspect minutes after the shooting. “He said he thought he flipped it from ‘fire’ to ‘safety,’ but it was actually the other way around.”
Paramedics called to the aluminum house trailer where the suspect lives with his mother found the 16-year-old girl dead inside.
Another teenage boy who was in the trailer at the time of the shooting was not hurt. His mother refused to let him answer questions. “He’s still in shock,” the woman said.
The witness appeared dazed. “I’m going to have nightmares about this, ain’t I, Mama?” he said. “It was sick.”
The shooting occurred about 4 p.m. at the Chattaroy Hills trailer park, just off U.S. Highway 2 near Denison-Chattaroy Road.
The victim, who lived in Spokane, was visiting her boyfriend, whose mother wasn’t home.
Detectives said they didn’t know what prompted the suspect to point the shotgun at his girlfriend. After the shooting, he ran away.
A 16-year-old boy who knows the suspect and victim said they were “always fighting about one thing or another.”
The boy, who lives seven trailers down from the murder scene, said the suspect ran into his house just after 4 p.m. The 17-year-old was very upset and had blood on his clothes, his friend said.
“He hid in my closet. It was unbelievable,” said the friend, who left the house with his family when officers arrived.
Washington State Patrol troopers and deputies surrounded the brown-and-white trailer and tried unsuccessfully to call the suspect on the telephone.
Meanwhile, troopers closed a 3-mile stretch of U.S. 2 for fear that cars could be hit if the boy started firing at authorities.
Deputies warned residents of the trailer park to stay inside their homes.
About 6:45 p.m., three deputies snuck up to the trailer and threw a cellular telephone through a bedroom window.
A negotiator using a bullhorn tried to persuade the boy to call authorities. “We need to help you out here,” the deputy said. “Pick up the phone.”
Nearly half an hour later, the teenager called deputies and agreed to surrender. The boy stepped out the front door minutes later with his hands above his head. He had dark shoulder-length hair and was wearing blue jeans and a blue T-shirt.
Deputies took him to the Spokane County Juvenile Detention Center, where he is being held on suspicion of murder. Formal charges may be filed today.
Neighbors said the suspect was a troubled boy who had dropped out of school and had little adult supervision.
“He’s been calling out for help for a long time,” said the woman whose son witnessed the shooting. “Nobody’s ever listened.”