South Sound News

Bonney Lake woman dies after being hit by stray bullet

BONNEY LAKE, Wash. — A woman hit by a stray bullet fired during the theft of a vehicle in Bonney Lake has died, according to the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department.

Investigators say the 61-year-old was shot in the head as the owner of a Jeep Cherokee fired a handgun at a thief pulling out of his driveway shortly after 11 p.m. Thursday.

Law enforcement sources identify the Jeep’s owner as Tobin Panton. He was booked into the Pierce County Jail on suspicion of second-degree assault. That is expected to change following the victim’s death.

Eyewitnesses said the shooter stood on his front porch and opened fire as he watched his Jeep being stolen.

Spencer Ruggenberg was watching television when he heard the gunfire.

“It was rapid fire, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom,” Ruggenberg said.

Sheriff’s investigators said bullets sprayed the neighborhood, with at least one striking the Jeep.

Another went into the home of 61-year-old Linda Green. Green's son, Paul Culp, said that he was asleep, but woke up to a house full of police officers.

“I went into her room, and she was face down on the ground, in a pool of blood,” he said.

She was found by another person in the house an hour after the initial shots were fired.

“Thought maybe she fell out of bed because she was on the floor,” said Detective Sgt. Gary Sanders.

When an ambulance was called, medics determined the woman had been hit by gunfire.

“Upon further inspection, they find that she has a gunshot wound to the head and that there is a bullet hole in her window,” Sanders said.

Green was pronounced dead at approximately 12:23 p.m. Friday.

“I am angry, but Mom wouldn’t want us to be. She was the type of person to forgive, forget, just -- let’s move on. Life is supposed to be happy,” Culp said.

Culp said his mother loved everything purple, and even colored her hair purple. He said she knew how to have fun, pick people up, and instill hope in people.

Culp said the man made a poor decision.

“Inside your home is a different story. I understand you’re trying to protect yourself. But outside, come on. I mean, is any piece of metal worth this?” Culp said.

Culp said he may need some time, but the family is determined to forgive Panton.

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