Charge reduced in fatal noise dispute

By Stephanie Rice, Columbian Vancouver city government reporter

Published:

Updated: March 9, 2012, 6:07 PM

 

A Vancouver man pleaded not guilty Friday to second-degree murder in the March 3 shooting of a man who lived in his Cascade Park apartment complex.

Christopher D. Paul, 31, made a brief appearance before Clark County Superior Court Judge Robert Lewis, who lowered Paul’s bail from $1 million to $500,000 in light of the lesser charge.

Paul was arrested on suspicion of first-degree murder in the death of Eric Walswick.

According to an affidavit of probable cause, Paul called 911 at 4:47 a.m. after shooting Walswick. He allegedly told a dispatcher that he went out to the parking lot at Village at Cascade Park Apartments, where Walswick was inside a car, listening to loud music. Paul told the dispatcher he knocked on the car window and Walswick got out of the car and “charged him.”

“Chris told dispatchers that he discharged a single round from his weapon and then returned to his apartment where he called 911,” wrote Detective John Ringo of the Vancouver Police Department.

To prove first-degree murder, prosecutors have to prove premeditated intent.

On Friday, Senior Deputy Prosecutor Alan Harvey said he filed a charge of second-degree felony murder because that’s what the evidence supports. While “felony murder” sounds redundant, it means prosecutors have a lower burden of proof because instead of proving an intent to kill (the standard for second-degree murder) they only have to show the defendant intended on committing a felony (in this case, second-degree assault) and in the course of committing that felony, the victim died.

Second-degree felony murder has the same standard sentencing range as second-degree murder, 10 to 17 years in prison. Harvey also filed a firearm enhancement, which would add a mandatory five years to any sentence.

If additional evidence supports a different theory, Harvey can file amended charges.

Harvey said there’s no evidence that Walswick, who died from his injuries at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center, was armed. Walswick was 26.

Paul has no prior criminal history. At the time of his arrest, he was employed as a Fred Meyer grocery clerk.

Three days before the shooting, Paul’s wife had called 911 to complain about Walswick listening to loud music in the parking lot.

Lewis said if Paul posts $500,000 bail, he will have to return to court to have a judge set conditions of his release. Court-appointed defense attorney Matthew Hoff said Paul would live with family members in Battle Ground.

Trial was set for April 30.