A Spokane man who had just gotten out of jail on a second-degree assault conviction when he attacked a convenience store clerk with a hammer tried unsuccessfully Thursday to convince a jury to give him a new second-degree assault conviction.
But the jury agreed with Deputy Prosecutor Eugene Cruz that striking Qwik Stop clerk Wayne E. Howry in the back of the head with an oversized ball-peen hammer was first-degree assault. A security video allowed jurors to view the Feb. 10 attack.
The difference between first and second degree was huge for defendant Shaun Webb, 25. If convicted of second-degree assault, he would have faced a standard-range sentence of 15 to 20 months. Now, he’s looking at 10 3/4 to 14 1/4 years in prison when Superior Court Judge Robert Austin sentences him Aug. 2.
The assault occurred at the Qwik Stop store at 3021 E. Wellesley, which had earlier ordered him to stay away. Howry asked Webb to leave when he entered the store. Howry, who was working alone, started to call police when Webb refused to leave.
Webb pulled a 2- to 3-pound ball-peen hammer from his pocket, went behind the counter and hit Howry in the back of the head. Howry suffered a cut that required about five stitches to close, but was able to take the hammer away from Webb.
Before he fled, Webb punched Howry in the mouth, splitting his lip.
The lip also needed stitches, but it was the hammer blow that mattered. The question for jurors was whether Webb intended to cause “great bodily harm” with a deadly weapon, Cruz and Assistant Public Defender Steve Reich agreed.
In his closing arguments, Reich dropped the hammer on the carpeted courtroom floor. He argued that the loud bang that startled jurors demonstrated the tool’s power as a weapon. If Webb had intended to cause great bodily harm, he easily could have done so, Reich argued.
“I can’t imagine being hit with this and not having your skull broken open,” Reich said. “…I can’t imagine how lightly you’d have to be hit on the head with this for it not to cause some real damage.”
The only reason Webb didn’t cause a severe injury was because Howry was moving when Webb swung the hammer, Cruz countered.
Webb pleaded guilty in December to second-degree assault in an incident last June, and was sentenced to six months in jail, with credit for 3 1/2 months already served.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.