April 30, 2005 in City

5-year-old leads cops to suspect in killing

Thomas Clouse Staff writer
 
The Spokesman-Review photo

Tristan Beeman Suspect in homicide
(Full-size photo)

A 5-year-old boy did Friday what surveillance, crime analysts and a SWAT team had failed to do: catch Tristan Duane Beeman.

For more than two years, Spokane police detectives meticulously pieced together an investigation that resulted with a warrant April 20 seeking Beeman’s arrest on a first-degree murder charge in connection with the Jan. 13, 2003, shooting death of Shawn M. Danielson.

The search ended Friday when the boy told School Resource Deputy Andy Buell that Beeman, 26, was hiding in the back bedroom of the boy’s house at 813 E. Courtland Ave.

“I don’t want to say (the boy) ratted him out,” Buell said. “He was just probably excited to see a police officer and was just being helpful.”

Three days after the Jan. 13 killing, Beeman was arrested on unrelated warrants. He denied being at the crime scene, 914 W. Euclid Ave., on the day Danielson was killed.

“We had our suspicions that (Beeman) was responsible from the get-go,” Lt. Scott Stephens said. “But it was a matter of finding some solid evidence.”

The case stalled until March 28, when the Washington State Patrol Crime Laboratory returned test results – 26 months after they were submitted – from a stocking cap that a witness said the shooter dropped as he ran from the crime scene. Those lab results matched with Beeman, according to court records.

The DNA evidence triggered the manhunt for Beeman by city officers and Spokane County sheriff’s deputies.

“There was a ton of information put out by the city-county crime analysts,” sheriff’s spokesman Cpl. Dave Reagan said. “Once charges were developed, sheriff’s units were conducting surveillance of known haunts.”

Early Wednesday, Spokane Valley police officers questioned a suspect in a traffic stop who said Beeman was hiding in a series of campers and outbuildings at 7711 E. Trent Ave., Reagan said. The county SWAT team searched every structure but came up empty.

About the same time, School Resource Deputy Buell had learned that the parents of a middle school student in the West Valley School District had befriended Beeman.

“I knew (Beeman) had lived with this family back in the summer,” Buell said.

On Friday, that same student was suspended for an unrelated discipline matter. School officials could not reach the boy’s mother, so they asked Buell to drive him home, he said.

The boy didn’t give Buell an address but directed him into Spokane city limits. As they approached the Courtland address, Buell stopped in the parking lot of a Yoke’s Foods and, on a hunch, requested Spokane police officers to back him up.

They formulated a plan. Two city officers covered the back of the house while one police officer joined Buell as they escorted the boy into the house, he said.

Once inside the home, they met the boy’s aunt and his 5-year-old brother.

“When I talked to the aunt, I asked if anybody else was home,” Buell said. “She said, no, it was just her and her nephew. That’s when the little child spoke up and said, ‘He’s in the bedroom.’ ”

Buell and the city officer went there and found Beeman. He complied with their orders to show his hands and was arrested without incident, Buell said.

Beeman “did not make any statements,” Buell said. “I don’t know how long he had been staying there. We did not ask any questions at that time.”

Beeman declined a reporter’s request late Friday for a jailhouse interview.

Reagan praised the case as an example of how school resource deputies can help solve crimes.

“Kids know what is going on in their neighborhoods,” Reagan said. “Had (Buell) not established a relationship with that student, this could have dragged on until someone else got hurt. Andy did a nice job.”


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