Thomasdinh “Dinh” Bowman took the stand Thursday morning in his murder trial for the August 2012 slaying of Seattle wine steward Yancy Noll.
After presenting its case over the past two weeks, the prosecution rested Thursday morning and defense attorney John Henry Browne gave an opening statement and put Bowman on the stand.
Prosecutors claim Bowman, 31, shot Noll in his car in a thrill killing, saying he wanted to know what it would feel like to kill someone. Initially, police thought the shooting followed a road-rage incident.
Noll, a wine steward at a QFC store on Capitol Hill, had left work at 7:10 p.m. on Aug. 31, 2012. He was stopped at a red light at 15th Avenue Northeast and Northeast 75th Street, idling behind a bus in the right-hand lane, when a silver BMW Z4 convertible pulled alongside and the driver opened fire, prosecutors say.
Witnesses found Noll dead inside his Subaru, with both hands still on the steering wheel.
After witnesses helped police create a sketch of the gunman, a tipster called and gave investigators Bowman’s name.
Browne, during his opening statement, said the shooting stemmed from a road-rage incident that started when Bowman cut off Noll on Interstate 5. Browne said Noll responded by chasing Bowman’s BMW, honking his horn and flashing his high beams.
At one point, Noll threw a water bottle into Bowman’s convertible, which bounced off the dashboard and hit Bowman on the head, Browne told jurors. Noll then threw a wine bottle that struck Bowman’s head, the attorney said.
Bowman, during his testimony, described Noll as “spitting angry,” with bulging eyes and red face. Bowman told jurors that he thought, “If I didn’t do something right then I was going to die.”
Bowman said he saw Noll rifling around the passenger side of his Subaru, and that’s when Bowman drew his Glock handgun out of a bag on the seat beside him. Bowman told jurors he doesn’t remember actually firing the handgun or the route he took home.
He said he thought Noll was still chasing him, and he expected to see the Subaru pull into his driveway.
“It still seemed very surreal. I felt it was this crazy bad dream. I was running from a monster and looking back, the monster wasn’t chasing me anymore,” Bowman said “I began to doubt that the incident happened at all.”
After showering and going to dinner in Tacoma with his wife, Bowman came home and inspected his car, he testified. He found the water bottle, wine bottle and three shell casings, and that’s when he knew something serious had happened, he said.
Bowman said he planned to call police but saw news reports that didn’t include any witness accounts of the car chase or the bottles being thrown.
“So I was realizing at that point the police were now looking at me as the bad guy,” Bowman said.
He thought he could “clear that up, call them and clarify what happened.” But then he thought, “If I was in their shoes … they probably would not believe what I would say. I started feeling trapped.”
Bowman is charged with first-degree murder.
He was featured in a May 1996 Seattle Times story when at age 13 he was nationally ranked in fencing and taking computer-science courses at Seattle Pacific University, maintaining a B average.