WALLA WALLA — A local man who shot and killed a longtime acquaintance who broke into the man’s home in April did so in self-defense, therefore will not be criminally charged for committing the homicide.
County Prosecuting Attorney Jim Nagle outlined his decision in a letter today to investigating authorities.
Jonathan L. Phillips, 31, of 1265 Belle St., gunned down Joshua S. White about 6:30 a.m. on April 7 after White broke into Phillips’ residence, police said.
Phillips, an employee of the Washington State Penitentiary, and White, who lived in Anacortes, Wash., reportedly had known each other for many years. They had spent the evening drinking and fighting at the residence and eventually Phillips kicked White out.
However, White returned, pounded on the locked front and rear doors, and demanded entry, according to Nagle’s letter.
“White forced his way into Phillips’ home by shattering the frame to the dead bolted rear door. Phillips, hearing White violently break into his home, armed himself with a Remington 870 shotgun and shot Joshua White in the chest,” Nagle wrote.
“Phillips stated to officers that he did so out of fear of White.”
An autopsy indicated the shots went through the palm of White’s extended left hand — which was extremely close to the barrel of the shotgun — and then penetrated his heart.
Nagle added that White was committing the crimes of burglary, malicious mischief and assault, and the state Legislature has enacted laws that give people the right to use reasonable force to defend themselves under certain circumstances.
“The Washington State Legislature and the Washington State Supreme Court have also made it clear that in such situations the prosecution should not charge a person with murder or manslaughter when they are defending themselves, their property, or against a felony, unless the prosecution has sufficient evidence to prove the absence of any of these defenses to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Although the use of deadly force might be reckless or criminal in certain circumstances, Nagle concluded that Phillips had every right to defend himself from the perceived attack.
“In fact, the circumstances as they appeared to Phillips at the time would lead a reasonable person to fear that White was attempting to take Phillips’ shotgun away from Phillips and arm himself.” Nagle wrote.
Terry McConn can be reached at email@example.com or 526-8319.