A Pierce County man with his 9-year-old son at his side Thursday shot and killed two men who apparently were trying to steal marijuana from what sheriff’s deputies called an illegal pot-growing operation inside the man’s garage.
The man and the boy were not hurt in what sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer described as a gunfight during which both sides fired multiple rounds.
“We could have had a dead 9-year-old and a dead homeowner,” Troyer said.
When deputies arrived, the boy’s backpack, multiple weapons and marijuana were strewn throughout the garage and on the driveway outside the house in the 5900 block of 132nd Street East, near Summit, Troyer said.
Detectives and evidence technicians were at the house most of Thursday and will be back today.
The 35-year-old man was taken in for questioning but not arrested. Troyer said the results of the investigation would be forwarded to prosecutors for a charging decision. Even if the man is not charged in the shooting, he likely will face prosecution for illegally growing marijuana, Troyer said.
“The amounts he’s growing far exceed what’s legal for medical marijuana,” he said.
Prosecutor Mark Lindquist would not speak specifically about the shooting as the investigation was unfolding, but said homeowners in Washington state have a right to defend themselves and their families, even if it’s from robbers intent on stealing their illegal drugs.
People have a right to use deadly force in the state if they reasonably believe they or someone else is in imminent danger of great personal injury or death, Lindquist said.
“It may be stupid and reckless to have an illegal grow operation in the house, but it does not waive your lawful right to self-defense,” he said. “We’ve had cases where we did not prosecute someone for the shooting but did prosecute for the illegal drugs.”
The homeowner called 911 about 8 a.m. to report a shooting at his home, which is in an unincorporated area southwest of Puyallup.
Deputies arrived to find two men dead in a three-car garage attached to the home. The dead men were wearing masks and carrying backpacks and handguns, Troyer said.
Detectives had not determined the names of the dead men as of late Thursday.
“This was not a random robbery,” Troyer said. “We believe the people were here to target this house because they were illegally growing a large quantity of marijuana.
“This is a cultivating operation that somebody came and tried to take away from the homeowner.”
The homeowner and his son apparently surprised the men in the garage and a gunfight broke out, Troyer said.
The shooting occurred on the day state law changed to allow people legally to possess up to an ounce of marijuana.
“This grow operation was illegal yesterday and we believe that it is illegal today under the state’s new law,” Sheriff Paul Pastor said. “We can expect that illegal and sometimes violent activities will continue to accompany the production of marijuana, even with the new law.”Adam Lynn: 253-597-8644 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/crime @TNTadam