Man sentenced for assault during Tacoma robbery that led to fatal heart attack

A man who caused someone to have a fatal heart attack after he assaulted the victim during a home-invasion robbery in Tacoma has been sentenced.

Christopher William Gallagher, 50, pleaded guilty Friday to second-degree murder and first-degree theft.

Superior Court Judge Stanley Rumbaugh sentenced him to 15 years, four months in prison for the death of 48-year-old William Meredith.

Meredith was in a coma following the attack and died Nov. 18, 2019.

According to court records, the Medical Examiner found he most likely died due to cardiac dysrhythmia caused by the stress of the assault.

Meredith’s loved ones wrote the court prior to the sentencing about their loss. The letters said Gallagher had never met Meredith and that he killed him for money.

“This family is never, never going to feel Billy’s love that he gave us so willingly,” one said. “... I crave the sight of my son, to hold him, to tell him I love him, to make his favorite chili and corn bread, see him laugh.”

It was signed: “Billy’s mother.”

Charging papers give this account of what happened Oct. 26, 2019 at the family’s home in the 1000 block of South Ferry Street:

There was an open line during a 911 call, and dispatchers heard threats and talk about shooting someone.

Police arrived and heard screaming from inside the home, and a man shouting something to the effect of: “You’re going nowhere! If I see anyone else, I’ll shoot!”

Thinking it might be a hostage situation, the officers used a PA system to contact the people inside.

Three came out and said a family member inside needed help.

Police found Gallagher, Meredith and another person inside.

Meredith didn’t have obvious injuries but wasn’t responsive and didn’t seem to be breathing. After CPR ,he was taken to the hospital.

One of the family members told police Gallagher came through the back door and started demanding money at gunpoint.

Meredith said: “I know you, I know you.” Gallagher said he didn’t.

At some point family members struggled with Gallagher as he was choking Meredith. One managed to repeatedly stab Gallagher, who was on top of Meredith and had the gun in his hand, and to grab the gun. Later it was found to be a BB gun.

Someone also called 911 but dropped the phone.

Meredith was in a coma after the attack and never regained consciousness.

“... the victim had several underlying health conditions, to include severe coronary artery disease and fibrosis of the liver,” a supplemental probable cause statement said.

The statement went on to say the Medical Examiner found “it was unlikely that the victim’s cardiac arrest would have occurred at that particular time were it not for the assault.”

Defense attorney David Katayama told the court his client had not intended to hurt anyone and noted he’ll be more than 60 by the time he’s released.

Gallagher wrote a letter to the court last year that talked about loved ones he’d lost and other challenges he’d faced that had caused him to feel hopeless.

“Seems like a man’s life is built on his wrong decisions,” it said. “They seem to count for so much more than any right ones he might make.”

When it was Gallagher’s turn to speak at sentencing he told the court he was sorry for how he handled things and spoke about how a negative childhood and other adversity in his life had affected him.

In response to his words the judge said: “I don’t necessarily think you are a monster, Mr. Gallagher, but you are a murderer.”

Then he handed down the sentence.

Rumbaugh told the family during the hearing: “I regret very much and understand the ripple effect of sadness and trauma” from what happened.