Teen kills man for phone, complains it's 'too cheap'
After fatally shooting a Seattle man for his cellphone, police say the teen fled to a friend's home where he complained the phone "was not a nicer model"
By Christine Clarridge and Jennifer Sullivan
The Seattle Times
SEATTLE — After fatally shooting a Seattle man for his cellphone last month, police say the 17-year-old high-school student fled to a friend's home where he complained the phone "was not a nicer model," according to charging documents filed Wednesday.
The suspect, Ballard High senior Byron White, was charged as an adult in connection with the fatal shooting Feb. 23 of David L. Peterson in Seattle's Greenwood neighborhood. Although he's a juvenile, White was charged under a state law that allows 16- and 17-year-olds suspected of serious, violent offenses to be charged as adults automatically.
White was also charged with second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm and second-degree attempted robbery. If convicted as charged, he faces 27 to 35 years in prison, which includes the firearm enhancement, according to King County prosecutors.
White is being held in lieu of $2 million bail and is scheduled to be arraigned at the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent on March 17.
Charging documents released Wednesday provide new details on what happened the night Peterson was fatally shot while out for a walk.
Police said Peterson, 54, was approached by White in the parking lot of the Mud Bay pet store in the 8500 block of First Avenue Northwest, according to the documents. White attempted to steal Peterson's cellphone, but Peterson resisted and after a struggle, prevailed, according to the charging documents.
White began to walk away without the phone when Peterson called 911 to report the incident, the documents say.
White turned back when he overheard the call; Peterson told the 911 operator that the man was "coming back," according to the charging documents.
"A few seconds later, Peterson can be heard on the 911 recording telling someone that he will not give up his phone and saying he was on the phone with police," the charges allege.
"It appears that the person to whom Peterson was speaking was quite close to him at the time; Peterson did not raise his voice. Peterson continued to talk to the 911 operator for a few seconds until, suddenly, the call went dead," the documents say.
Prosecutors say that White pulled a 9 mm semi-automatic pistol from his waistband and shot Peterson once in the chest, the bullet striking Peterson's heart and perforating his spinal column.
Peterson was pronounced dead at the scene.
According to the charging documents, a single 9 mm spent cartridge casing was found on the pavement.
White then ran to a friend's house a few blocks away and told three people about what had happened, charges say.
Charging documents claim White said Peterson had seen his face so "he had to shoot him."
The documents say White was disappointed that the cellphone he had taken from Peterson "was not a nicer model."
Prosecutors say all three witnesses gave statements to police.
Peterson's widow, Kimberly Dawn Pettigrew Peterson, expressed forgiveness for the teen and compassion for his family in a phone interview Monday.
But she was angry Wednesday after reading the teen's alleged comments on the quality of her husband's phone.
"I want him to spend the rest of his life in prison," she said. "Just because I forgive him does not mean he should not have to face the consequences for his actions."
White, who played on the Ballard High football team, was arrested Saturday at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport as he prepared to board a flight to Atlanta.
Police say the teen's mother alerted them to his plans to flee.
"There was a bunch of different information, but the mother was helping us, too," said Seattle police homicide Capt. Steve Paulsen. "Once she found out her son was involved, she called the detectives to tell them where he was going."
The teen's mother, Yvette Watkins, told The Times on Monday that her son had been a good and respectful student from a two-parent household. However, she said he had taken a turn for the worst over the past couple of months.
She declined to comment Wednesday.
Police say they have not recovered the gun used to kill Peterson. However, a search of the home where White fled yielded ammunition of the same type, caliber and brand as the casing found at the homicide scene, police said in the charging documents.
"David Peterson went out for a walk around the neighborhood after dinner and never returned," King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said in a statement. "He was a random victim from a chance encounter with a dangerous young man. That the evidence shows he was murdered for his cellphone by a teenager with a gun makes this all the more tragic and senseless."
Copyright 2014 The Seattle Times