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Gunshot that killed man driving downtown Tuesday was accidental, witnesses say

UPDATED: Thu., Aug. 17, 2017, 4:18 p.m.

Officers investigate a fatal shooting on S. Washington street on Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017, in Spokane, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Officers investigate a fatal shooting on S. Washington street on Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017, in Spokane, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

Witnesses told police that a man killed while driving down Washington Street Tuesday was shot when his AK-47, which was being handled by a teenage passenger, accidentally went off.

The man, who died at the scene, was identified in court documents as 24-year-old Jose Ismael Hernandez-Soto of Selah, Washington. He had come to Spokane with his pregnant girlfriend, her 16-year-old brother and her brother’s friend, according to court documents. They had planned to visit Silverwood, but instead spent the day visiting local malls and Riverfront Park.

The car’s other passengers said that Hernandez-Soto owned an AK-47 that he typically placed between the front seats of his car. While he was driving north on Washington Street he asked his girlfriend’s brother, who is a teenager and therefore not named in court documents, to get his rifle out of the cargo area behind the back seats.

The teenager told police that he reached back and grabbed the rifle, which went off when he placed it briefly in his lap, according to court documents. Hernandez-Soto was shot through his seat.

Hernandez-Soto’s girlfriend told police that she heard her brother say “Oh my God, I thought the safety was on,” according to court documents. After the car came to a stop the teenager wrapped his belt around Hernandez-Soto’s midsection to try to stop the bleeding there, court documents state.

The police officer who interviewed the teenager noted “his sincerity, his sadness and cooperation” in court documents.

The teen is facing a charge of second-degree manslaughter.