A transient accused of shooting two men on a Tacoma street mistakenly believed the men were yelling at him before he opened fire on their car, according to court documents.
On Wednesday, Wesley Armstead pleaded not guilty at arraignment to attempted first-degree murder, two counts of first-degree assault and second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm in connection with Monday’s shooting near East 32nd and East R streets.
An 18-year-old man was shot in the face and is not expected to survive.
His 35-year-old uncle was also shot but is expected to survive.
A third man in the vehicle was not injured.
Armstead, 26, is homeless and told police he was high on methamphetamine and had been drinking in the hours before the shooting.
Pierce County Superior Court Commissioner Craig Adams set bail at $1 million.
Charging papers give this account:
The victims had just left a casino and were driving when they stopped the car and the 18-year-old got out to argue with several people.
His uncle and friend tried to convince him to get back in the car, but the 18-year-old continued arguing with the group.
Witnesses said Armstead showed up “out of nowhere” and began shooting, records say.
Police said Armstead did not know the victims and did not interact with them before firing a shotgun.
A K-9 found Armstead hiding beneath a vehicle in a backyard on East 32nd Street.
After he was taken into custody, Armstead allegedly told detectives he’d found the shotgun in a park and decided to hold onto it so he could trade it for drugs.
He was walking to the casino just before 10 p.m. when he spotted a Chevy Impala stopped in the road. Armstead believed the people in the car “began to shout vulgar statements toward him” and he thought the victims were going to “get him” so he fired several shots at the front of the Impala, prosecutors wrote in charging papers.
Armstead said he then hid in an alley because he was scared.
Police do not believe the victims were speaking to Armstead and that he mistook comments made in the argument between the 18-year-old and the other group as being directed at him.
Officers found two 12-gauge shotgun shells near the intersection and said the front of the Impala was shot up.
Shortly before the shooting, Armstead had been released for jail on a pending third-degree assault case.
On May 8, officers saw him yelling at vehicles near East 32nd and Portland Avenue. He allegedly ran into traffic and hit a window of one of the cars driving by.
At that point, officers approached and handcuffed him. He screamed at police, lunged at a bystander in a crosswalk and tried to head butt one of the officers.
“The officer took a step back to avoid the blow and struck the defendant in the left side of his jaw to separate themselves,” the charging papers say. “The defendant was then put under control and taken into custody.”
He pleaded not guilty at arraignment, and in June was released on his own recognizance.
A warrant was issued for his arrest last week when he didn’t appear for court.