Crime

Bail set for man charged with hitting trick-or-treater

The 7-year-old boy was trick-or-treating with his dad, holding hands as they crossed North I Street at North Ninth about 7:20 p.m. Halloween night.

A maroon Toyota 4Runner struck the boy in the crosswalk, then drove away, court records state.

The boy was lying in the street with a fractured skull, missing teeth, with cuts all over his body, records state.

Onlookers saw the crash and stopped the driver a block away, holding the driver at gunpoint until police arrived to arrest him.

Officers said Kasey Gunnarson reeked of alcohol and had slurred speech, bloodshot eyes and poor balance, documents state.

Gunnarson, 38, of Tacoma, was arraigned Tuesday afternoon in Pierce County Superior Court, charged with vehicular assault. Court Commissioner Meagan Foley set his bail at $20,000, and said Gunnarson must be on electronic home monitoring with an alcohol sensor if he meets bail.

“He was cooperative, remorseful and upset at the scene,” said Deputy Prosecutor Tim Jones, who sought bail of $25,000.

After being hit by the SUV, the 7-year-old boy was taken to Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital in Tacoma, where he was in critical condition, hospital spokeswoman Marce Edwards told The News Tribune on Tuesday.

Gunnarson told officers he had gotten off work as a bartender and had drunk alcohol and smoked marijuana before driving home, records state.

He said the boy ran in front of his SUV and that was why he hit him, records state.

The officer said he didn’t know if Gunnarson was struggling to speak because of being inebriated or because he was distraught about hitting the boy, records state. He told the officer multiple times he hoped the boy would be OK.

Gunnarson was taken to Allenmore Hospital, where blood samples were taken and sent to the Washington State Toxicology Laboratory for analysis. Test results are pending.

Witnesses disputed Gunnarson’s account of the incident.

Danielle and Michael Lester had just crossed the street with their two children and nephew when they saw Gunnarson’s car heading in their direction.

“I actually saw the little boy fly through the air,” Danielle Lester said by phone Tuesday. “It sounded like somebody hit a garbage can.”

Danielle Lester ran over and stood in front of the car to keep Gunnarson from leaving as Gunnarson bumped into her with his SUV.

As she refused to move, Michael Lester saw what was happening and ran over to help. At the same time another neighbor, Kenneth Hines came over to stop Gunnarson from running away.

Hines told KING-TV he heard a screech, saw “candy going all over the place,” then held Gunnarson at gunpoint in a citizen’s arrest until police arrived.

Gunnarson had a 2009 charge in Tacoma Municipal Court for driving under the influence that was reduced to reckless endangerment in 2011 after he met court-mandated requirements, Jones said during the arraignment.

Staff writers Alexis Krell and Brynn Grimley contributed to this report.

Kenny Ocker: 253-597-8627, @KennyOcker

How to help

Contact First Presbyterian Church in Tacoma at 253-272-3286 if you would like to help the boy’s family.

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