A Spokane man accused of shooting two men to death over a vehicle trade says the slayings were in self-defense.
Merle W. Harvey, 27, shot Jack T. Lamere, 41, and Jacob J. Potter, 45, after “three guys surrounded my truck with guns,” Harvey told a local TV station this week.
“My side of the story is self-defense,” Harvey said in the videotaped interview with KREM-TV. “It could have been me and my girlfriend dead.”
Authorities, however, dismiss his claims. Investigators allege the shooting deaths were planned, and a Spokane County District Court judge ordered Harvey held on $1 million bond for two first-degree murder charges after he and Diane L. Richardson were arrested Oct. 10 in Kennewick, two weeks after the Sept. 26 killings.
Richardson, 34, is being held on $250,000 bail for one count of first-degree rendering criminal assistance.
Police say the couple stole a Jeep in North Idaho before crashing it into a canal after shoplifting from a convenience store, according to newly filed court documents.
Other than two rifles used by Harvey, police connected only one other gun to the scene – an unloaded handgun found near Lamere’s body.
Harvey’s interview, coupled with witness reports detailed in court papers, paint a chaotic scene outside a Spokane home as an argument about two rundown cars exploded into a hail of gunfire that left Lamere and Potter dead.
“My life was in danger. My girl- friend’s life was in danger,” Harvey said through tears in the TV interview. “They make it sound like I went to go murder somebody. That’s not what happened.”
Harvey said he never traded his Blazer to Lamere for a Cadillac – Lamere took it for a test drive and never brought it back.
Police found the Cadillac in the yard of the mobile home where Harvey lived at 3911 E. Rich Ave.
Police thought Harvey might have been in Las Vegas with his sister, but a tipster put him in Pasco, according to the Tri-City Herald.
One witness said Lamere had a gun and told Harvey, “You have three minutes to leave,” before Harvey pulled a .22-caliber rifle from a flatbed truck and fired, according to court documents.
Harvey then fired “a bigger gun with bigger flashes” before fleeing in the truck with Richardson, according to the search warrant. A witness told police he heard the shooter “say something to the effect of, ‘This is for ripping me off.’ ”
Autopsies showed Lamere and Potter died of single gunshot wounds to the chest from a .22-caliber rifle.
Police also found casings from a .30-06 caliber rifle. Harvey fired at least 11 shots, according to court documents.
Harvey told KREM that he knew as a convicted felon he wasn’t supposed to have the rifles. He said he’d been target shooting with Richardson and it was “a happen chance” that they drove by Lamere’s place and spotted the Blazer.
Harvey served five years in prison after being convicted in 2000 of first-degree assault with a firearm. Court papers say Harvey, then 18, shot out the back window of a pickup as two men drove away after an argument.
He already had a conviction as a juvenile for unlawful possession of a firearm.