Crime

Was this fatal shooting on Tacoma’s Hilltop self-defense? A jury will decide.

Many details about the night Yancy Ray shot and killed Hyson Sabb on Tacoma’s Hilltop have been disputed.

But prosecutors and Ray’s defense attorney agreed on some things Tuesday as Ray’s five-week trial for second-degree murder went to the jury.

For one: Ray shot the 41-year-old Sabb following an argument the men had at a house known for drug transactions.

For another: Jurors don’t have to like either of them.

What jurors must decide is whether Ray fired in self-defense.

“You don’t get a free kill, because the person that you killed is not likeable,” deputy prosecutor Rosie Martinelli said during closing arguments.

Defense attorney Sunni Ko told jurors about Ray, who is 51: “Your job is not to like him. You don’t have to want to have coffee with this guy.”

Prosecutors say Ray became angry when a close friend of Sabb’s recommended a source who could get Ray marijuana to sell. They argued, Sabb intervened, and Ray left, saying that he would be back.

When he returned, it was with a gun, and within seconds he shot Sabb in the torso, Martinelli said. Sabb didn’t have any bullets for his own gun, she told jurors.

“Yancy Ray was in an absolute hurry to get out of that car and do a preemptive strike on Hyson Sabb, and he did,” she said. “... this is about ego and pride that got in the way of good judgment.”

Ko told jurors Ray owed Sabb money for a drug debt and that he had left the house to get part of the sum.

She showed jurors photos of injuries to Ray’s head and elbow that she said suggested Ray had been beaten up.

Sabb started shooting when he returned, evidenced in part by a bullet that hit Ray’s vehicle, she argued.

Ray wasn’t killed, she said, because Sabb’s gun jammed.

“When someone is shooting at you, when that someone is firing multiple shots in your direction, when that someone is trying to kill you with a gun, you can shoot back,” she said.

Ray fled after the shooting, and his wife, 52-year-old Tracey Tamara Norris, was accused of driving him to Portland. She’s pending trial for first-degree rendering criminal assistance.

Ray turned himself into the Pierce County Jail 18 days after the shooting. He is also charged with unlawful gun possession.

Both he and Sabb have prior convictions for homicide, among other felonies and misdemeanors.

Sabb was convicted of second-degree murder in 1995 in Thurston County, and Ray was convicted of first-degree manslaughter in 1986 in Oregon.

Alexis Krell: 253-597-8268, @amkrell

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