Crime

Man charged in fatal Parkland hit-and-run at large

Earl Switzer, 45, with his niece and his mother ,Yong Switzer.
Earl Switzer, 45, with his niece and his mother ,Yong Switzer. courtesy

Pierce County prosecutors have charged a man they believe hit a Parkland bar patron with his truck in February and left him for dead in the street.

Shamus Von Berks, 37, was charged Friday in Superior Court with failure to remain at a fatal accident and third-degree driving while suspended in the Feb. 2 death of Earl Switzer Jr., 45.

Judge Kathryn Nelson issued a bench warrant for the arrest of Von Berks, who remains at large.

Switzer was found critically injured in the 10700 block of Park Avenue South after being hit by a vehicle that fled.

He had broken a fence at a nearby bar and was trying to start fights with customers, but left before sheriff’s deputies arrived.

Deputies found tire tracks and a broken mirror on the road that showed it was likely an older-model truck that hit Switzer.

The Clover Park High School and University of Washington Tacoma alumnus died March 18 of his injuries at St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma.

Switzer’s family members struggled with not knowing the circumstances that led up to his death, they told The News Tribune.

Deputies had received a tip in late February that Von Berks had talked about being involved in a hit-and-run collision in his father’s pickup truck, according to court records.

After Switzer’s death, another tip came in, again naming Von Berks.

Deputies met with Von Berks’ father, who told them he has little contact with his son, documents said. But he had recently seen a truck with a damaged windshield at his ex-wife’s house, where his son lived.

Deputies went there next, meeting with Von Berks’ mother’s partner, documents said. The partner said he lent Von Berks his truck in November, but it wasn’t returned, so he reported it stolen.

The truck was found Feb. 10 with a crack in the windshield.

The partner took deputies to a neighbor’s garage, where they saw the truck with a new grille, windshield and mirrors, and recent spray painting on the front passenger side of the hood.

Von Berks’ mother came out and told the deputies her son had confessed to her about the incident, documents said, and named the bar at which Switzer had been before being hit.

The mother and her partner told deputies they had bought Von Berks a plane ticket to Florida two or three days before meeting with deputies.

Kenny Ocker: 253-597-8627, @KennyOcker

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