‘Really?’ drug dealer scoffs just before man pulls gun and kills him

The man who killed 25-year-old Lucas John Gritzke at a Puyallup motel argues he tried to keep the peace before he fired the fatal shot in room 222.

Jurors heard opening statements Monday in the trial of Troy Evan Bottemiller, who is charged with second-degree murder for killing John Gritzke last year.

“This case is about drugs and guns,” Pierce County Deputy Prosecutor James Schacht told them.

The shooting happened April 16, 2016, at the Northwest Motor Inn, 1409 South Meridian.

Schacht said Gritzke, a drug dealer, showed up at the motel and confronted 27-year-old Bottemiller, because he believed Bottemiller had impersonated him to steal his clients.

Gritzke demanded Bottemiller’s drugs and money, Schacht recounted. Bottemiller agreed, and Gritzke started for the parking lot.

He turned as he reached the door, and saw Bottemiller pulling a gun from his pants, Schacht said.

“Really?” Gritzke asked him.

Then he stepped toward Bottemiller, who fired the .45-caliber handgun and hit Gritzke once in the chest, killing him.

“The shooting happened very quickly,” Schacht said. “... It was scary, and it was unexpected.”

Defense attorney Bryan Hershman told the jury Bottemiller fired in self-defense, and that he tried to diffuse the argument before shooting.

“My client was speaking very calmly and very softly to maintain peace in the room,” he said.

And Bottemiller told Gritzke: “Get out of here,” before he fired, Hershman said.

He argued Bottemiller had reason to fear for his safety as Gritzke advanced toward him in the motel room.

Gritzke was “amped up” on methamphetamine, the attorney said, and on a previous occasion had “beat the pulp out of” Bottemiller, using a cast on his hand as a weapon.

He kept beating Bottemiller after he lost consciousness during that incident, the lawyer said.

That meant Bottemiller was scared when Gritzke stepped toward him at the motel, and evidence shows Gritzke was 18 to 36 inches from the muzzle when Bottemiller fired, Hershman said.

He pointed out that others in the room at the time had stronger allegiances to Gritzke than to Bottemiller. And Bottemiller didn’t know whether they would join Gritzke if he tried to beat him again, Hershman said.

“My client was a lone wolf in that room,” he argued.

Some of the other people who’d been in room 222 are expected to testify during the trial, the attorneys said. They told jurors those witnesses are in various stages of recovery from drug addiction.

“They all had some very, very serious monkeys on their backs,” Schacht said.

As did Gritzke and Bottemiller.

“Admittedly, both were living a ridiculous lifestyle at the time,” Hershman said.

Alexis Krell: 253-597-8268, @amkrell

Related stories from Tacoma News Tribune