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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Airway Heights man died trying to break up teens’ argument over who would date girl

UPDATED: Tue., Aug. 29, 2017

The baseball bat beating that left 53-year-old Terry Toner dead early Friday morning outside of his apartment in Airway Heights began because he was trying to stop two teenagers from arguing about who would date a girl at a party.

The details, captured in court documents, describe an argument between friends that quickly turned into a bloody scene. Christian Palmer, 18, and Brandon L. Pierce, 19, appeared in court Monday on accusations of second-degree murder.

The chaos began when Pierce and Palmer were attending a house party in an apartment complex at 10913 West Sixth Ave., which is Kalispel Reservation land.

Toner, who lived in the neighboring apartment, called in a noise complaint at about 2 a.m. Police responded and resolved the complaint.

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Hours later, while trying to stop an argument between Palmer and Pierce, things turned violent, according to police. According to court documents, the two teenagers were asked to leave the apartment because they were arguing over dating a girl, and while outside, Toner exited his apartment and got into an argument with the two.

Police wrote that one witness observed Palmer and Pierce “hitting and stomping on the victim while [he] was lying on the ground motionless.” She told police she “saw all the victim’s blood and began to vomit.” Other witnesses told police at least one of the suspects was striking Toner with a baseball bat.

When police arrived, they found Toner covered in blood, lying motionless in the breezeway. They also found Palmer lying between two vehicles in the parking lot, also covered in blood. He was transported to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center for injuries related to being struck in the head during the altercation.

Palmer told detectives he had no memory of the fight due to his head injury. He was later booked into the Spokane County Jail.

Pierce apparently fled the scene and contacted the girl who he and Palmer were arguing over after she pleaded for him to come back, to which he responded “No, I’m not doing that,” police wrote.

He was later located, and while being interviewed, confessed to punching and kicking Toner, but said he “did not intend for (Toner) to die,” according to court documents.

Toner’s friends set up a fundraiser on You Caring, a crowdfunding site, for his family.

“Terry was an amazing father, husband, son, brother, uncle and friend,” friends wrote. “He made a friend with whoever he would meet and had a heart of gold. He is and will forever be deeply missed.”

In court Monday, District Court Judge Richard Leland set Pierce’s bail at $1 million and issued a no-contact order with his co-defendant. The state’s attorney went over Pierce’s lengthy juvenile criminal history. His public defender did not contest the bond amount or other conditions.

Palmer, who is represented by private defense attorney Bevan Maxey, was quiet and reserved as Leland went over the charges, but then quickly broke down into tears and covered his face as the judge continued.

His mother, Elizabeth Palmer, and grandmother, Janice Tyvan, were present in the courtroom to testify on behalf of his moral character and to detail his ties to the Spokane community. His mother was hard to hear over Palmer’s audible sobbing coming from the TV, where he was broadcast from a room in the jail.

Tyvan, who spoke louder, told Leland her grandson could stay with her if released, and that he was days away from turning in his summer-school assignments to graduate from Ferris High School.

“He is very caring and a very smart boy,” she said. “He was taking responsibility and trying to get things in order.”

Leland took issue with the seriousness of the charge and Palmer’s history of failing to appear during other court matters. He set bail at $750,000.

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