King County prosecutors this morning charged 17-year-old Byron White with first-degree murder in connection with the fatal shooting of David L. Peterson on Feb.23 in Seattle’s Greenwood neighborhood.
The teen was charged in adult court under a state law that provides for automatic adult prosecution for 16- and 17-year-olds suspected of serious violent offenses.
Charging documents allege that White approached Peterson in the parking lot of the Mud Bay pet store in the 8500 block of 1st Avenue Northwest and tried to steal Peterson’s cellphone. Peterson, who was out for an evening walk, refused to hand over the phone and, after a brief “tussle” White began to walk away, according to the documents.
Peterson called 911 to report the incident and while he was talking to an operator White walked back to Peterson, court documents allege.
Peterson told the 911 operator that the man was “coming back.”
“A few seconds later, Peterson can be heard on the 911 recording telling someone that he will not give up his phone and saying he was on the phone with police,” the charges allege. “It appears that the person to whom Peterson was speaking was quite close to him at the time; Peterson did not raise his voice. Peterson continued to talk to the 911 operator for a few seconds until, suddenly, the call went dead.”
Prosecutors allege that White then shot Peterson once in the chest with a 9mm semi-automatic pistol, striking Peterson’s heart and perforating the spinal column. Police said investigators found a single 9mm spent cartridge casing on the pavement.
According to the documents, White then ran to a friend’s house a few blocks away and told three people about what had happened. He told them the man had used the phone to call 911 and that “the man had seen his face, and he had to shoot him.”
The documents alleged White was disappointed that the cellphone he had taken from Peterson “was not a nicer model.”
Prosecutors say all three witnesses in the house gave statements to police.
White, a senior at Ballard High School where he played on the football team, was arrested Saturday at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport as he prepared to board a flight to Atlanta.
White has also been charged with second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm and second-degree attempted robbery. If convicted as charged, the sentence range is 27 to 35 years in prison, which includes the firearm enhancement.
White is currently being held in lieu of $2 million bail and is scheduled to be arraigned at the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent on March 17.
“David Peterson went out for a walk around the neighborhood after dinner and never returned,” said King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg. “He was a random victim from a chance encounter with a dangerous young man. That the evidence shows he was murdered for his cellphone by a teenager with a gun makes this all the more tragic and senseless.”