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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Teen slain in botched robbery

Matthew Migaki
 (Courtesy photo / The Spokesman-Review)

A 17-year-old boy was shot to death early Sunday in a drug robbery that went bad, Spokane Police Department spokesman Dick Cottam said in a news release. The suspected gunman was at large Sunday, and two other teenagers are facing first-degree murder charges.

The victim was Matthew Migaki, a junior at Shadle Park High School.

“He was a great kid,” said his father, Bruce Migaki. “He did something wrong one time. He made a mistake.”

The shooting occurred at about 1 a.m. Two teens and the shooting suspect, 23-year-old Nicholas J. Walter, planned to rob Migaki after picking him up at the Safeway store at Francis Avenue and Monroe Street, Cottam said.

Migaki, Walter and an unidentified 15-year-old were in a car being driven by 16-year-old Caleb J. Hanowell. The 15-year-old told police that the three suspects agreed to tell Migaki they wanted to buy a large quantity of marijuana from him, Cottam said. But the three planned to steal the marijuana from Migaki after he had picked it up, Cottam said.

“Walter apparently loaded the illegal shotgun with a round before they picked up the victim, and he said he would rack the slide to scare the 17-year-old (Migaki) into surrendering the marijuana,” Cottam said.

Migaki picked up the pot and then, “when the four were in the car, the shotgun was fired, hitting the victim in the head,” Cottam said.

Walter jumped from the car and fled with the shotgun, Cottam said. The other two drove to a nearby hospital to get treatment for Migaki, who was pronounced dead in the car by a physician outside the emergency room.

Major crimes detective Tim Madsen booked Hanowell and the 15-year-old into juvenile detention on one count each of first-degree murder and first-degree robbery.

Yvonne Davis, a friend of the Migaki family’s, called Matthew Migaki a “precious child” who was shy and protective of his younger sisters. She had known him since birth when she and his mother, Mary Ann Migaki, taught together at a local school. Davis recalled Matthew playing soccer as a young boy and said he recently had been working part time at the Rosauers grocery store in Browne’s Addition.

Davis lamented the death of Matthew Migaki, as well as another boy she knew who was killed violently a few years ago.

“These are not discarded kids,” Davis said. “These are kids who were beloved, who were cherished. No matter what you do, you can’t protect them.”

Janice Duvanich, another family friend, was at the Migaki home Sunday when more than 50 of the boy’s friends showed up to share their grief. She wrote in an e-mail that Migaki came from a “close, loving and well-respected family” and that the circumstances of his death might make it appear that he was a troubled kid.

“He wasn’t. He was a 17-year-old kid who thought he was invincible,” Duvanich wrote.

She recalled watching Migaki receive his first Holy Communion and become confirmed at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic parish.

“His parents were working hard to keep him on the right path,” Duvanich wrote. “Unfortunately, he didn’t always listen.”

While she was with the family Sunday, Duvanich said, Migaki’s father held a photo from the family’s recent camping trip while his mother, Mary Ann, gripped his school photo to her chest.

Mary Ann Migaki recently had hung an angel over her son’s school picture to watch over him while he was out.