Army Ranger arraigned in shooting of fellow JBLM soldier

An Army Ranger assigned to Joint Base Lewis-McChord was arraigned Monday in Pierce County Superior Court, charged with shooting a fellow soldier in the neck Saturday in Parkland.

Spc. Thomas Patrick Popek, 22, faces one count of second-degree assault for the incident, which charging documents say left a JBLM soldier on life support with a bullet lodged in his neck.

The 23-year-old is in critical condition in an area hospital and unable to breathe on his own.

The shooting happened about 3:10 p.m. in the 1000 block of 115th Street Court East, sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer said.

Prosecutors sought a $50,000 bail for Popek on the assault charge, but Court Commissioner Meagan Foley released him on his own recognizance.

Popek is assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, and has been assigned to JBLM, regiment spokesman Maj. Tony Mayne said.

The wounded soldier is a specialist assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division spokesman Lt. Col. Fred Williams said. The wounded soldier is from Hudson, New Hampshire.

According to charging documents:

Popek, the victim and others were in a Parkland apartment Saturday and getting ready to go to a shooting range. Popek told deputies he was cleaning his .45 handgun and was “fooling around with the gun while cleaning it.”

He said he pointed the gun at the victim and pulled the trigger. He said he didn’t know a round was in the chamber and the gun fired.

One witness said Popek had returned to JBLM from a deployment five days earlier.

Kenny Ocker: 253-597-8627, @KennyOcker