A man accused in the shooting death of a woman outside her Lake Tapps home told deputies the victim was shot during a scuffle over a handgun but denies pulling the trigger. Pierce County prosecutors believe he’s responsible for the woman’s death. Jason Arnold, 38, was charged Friday in Pierce County Superior Court with two counts of second-degree murder, first-degree manslaughter and first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm.
A plea of not guilty was entered on his behalf at arraignment Friday afternoon. Superior Court Commissioner Meagan Foley set bail at $1.5 million.
Arnold is accused in the death of a 33-year-old woman who was fatally shot in the early hours of March 24 outside a residence near Lake Tapps. The victim has not been publicly identified. According to court records, Arnold has previously been convicted in Pierce County of second-degree burglary and first-degree theft. In his 2006 burglary conviction, prosecutors accused Arnold of “ransacking” a Gig Harbor dentistry and causing about $30,000 in damage.
When deputies arrived at the victim’s residence, they found the woman with a gunshot wound to her chest and a gun in her hand. Based on video from a neighbor’s surveillance camera and a witness statement, prosecutors believe Arnold shot the woman, then placed the handgun in her left hand.
It’s not clear how Arnold and the victim knew one another, but according to charging documents the woman brought him to her house after he was released from prison Wednesday. The shooting occurred when another person came to pick Arnold up.
Interviewed by deputies at the scene, Arnold said the woman pointed a gun at him and told him he couldn’t leave. He said he tried to get the gun away from her and she was shot. In a subsequent interview, he told detectives it was possible the gun was in both his hands and the victim’s hands at one point, but he denied pulling the trigger. He also denied placing the gun in the victim’s hand.
Charging documents gave this account:
Pierce County Sheriff’s Department deputies were dispatched about 2:21 a.m. to a residence on 60th Street East in Bonney Lake for a report of a shooting, according to the declaration for determination of probable cause.
According to charging documents, Arnold was with the victim at the residence after being released from prison Wednesday. A witness to the shooting who knows Arnold received a call from him asking her to pick him up.
That woman tried to pick him up several times, but she left after hearing Arnold and the woman arguing about a gun. She told detectives the final time she came to the house, the victim walked out first, followed by Arnold.
The two were standing in front of her car, and she locked her doors, telling them no one was getting in her car with a gun. “If you have a gun, give it back and let’s just go,” the witness reported saying. Then she saw a bright flash and heard Arnold say “let’s go,” according to the probable cause document. The witness said she went to the victim’s side where she fell and called 911. She didn’t recall seeing a handgun in either of the victim’s hands.
The witness left the victim’s side to flag down deputies when they arrived, and when she returned, she saw the gun in the victim’s hand. She told investigators she never really saw who had the gun when the shooting occurred, but she believed Arnold shot her.
Earlier that day Arnold had asked her to get him a gun under her name but she refused, she told investigators. He didn’t give her a reason for wanting a gun.
When the defendant was interviewed at the scene, he told deputies the victim held him at gunpoint near the witness’ car and told him he wasn’t leaving. He said he tried to get the gun away from her but that it went off and the woman was shot.
Investigators interviewed Arnold later, and he said that while he was trying to leave, the victim accused him of stealing from her and blocked his path. He said he followed her out to the witness’ car and that the gun went off while he was trying to get in.
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