January 26, 2010 in City

Police find gun used in slaying

Owner attended party where man died, police say
By The Spokesman-Review
 
Crime Stoppers photo

Eric Burton, Jr.
(Full-size photo)

A gang member involved in a fatal shooting five years ago was in possession of the gun that police believe was used to kill a man outside a north Spokane party nine days ago, newly filed documents allege.

Eric Burton Jr. is charged with illegal weapons possession after police determined a semi-automatic rifle used to kill John S. Williams III on Jan. 17 belonged to Burton. The 24-year-old has previous felony convictions that prohibit him from possessing firearms.

Burton was arrested two days after the slaying but is free on $10,000 bail. No charges have been filed in Williams’ death – the city’s first homicide this year – and detectives haven’t determined who killed him.

Police found Williams, 38, dead in an alley outside an apartment building at 5405 N. Crestline St. about 3:40 a.m., then spotted Burton running into an apartment, according to court documents.

He volunteered to be taken to the police station for questioning, where he told police he’d driven a rented 2008 Nissan Altima to the party. Police found the gun used to kill Williams in the back of that Altima.

The car was rented to Burton’s girlfriend, Lacey L. Meacham, 27, according to court documents. Burton reportedly told police he’d driven the car to the party alone.

About 40 people had gathered at 5405 N. Crestline, apartment 3, for a birthday party that night before fights broke out and shots were fired, witnesses told police.

One man told police he’d heard two or three gunshots “and then heard someone saying ‘What did I do? What did I do?,’ ” according to a search warrant.

The man then saw a man matching the description of Burton try to enter apartment 3 before entering a nearby unit.

A defense lawyer listed in court records for Burton, Christian Phelps, did not return an after-hours phone call seeking comment.

Burton was convicted of second-degree assault in 2005 for the New Year’s Day slaying of 24-year-old Calvin Banks, who police said was a rival gang member. Burton was first charged with second-degree murder but took a plea deal that gave him a year in prison.

This year’s shooting victim, Williams, was at the birthday party on Crestline with his 21-year-old son, police said. Williams was enrolled at the Spokane Community College Apprenticeship and Journeyman Training Center, according to a March 2009 newspaper article. He joined the painters union and praised the training he’d received but told the newspaper he needed to “clock hours” to have insurance coverage for his family.

“It’s hard right now,” he said. “There’s no work out there.”

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