Vancouver man pleads guilty to killing neighbor

Altercation at apartment complex led to fatal shooting

By Paris Achen, Columbian courts reporter

Published:

 

A Vancouver man pleaded guilty Tuesday to the March 3, 2012, shooting death of a neighbor at his Cascade Park apartment complex.

Christopher D. Paul, 32, maintained that he killed Eric Walswick in self-defense but pleaded guilty in exchange for a reduced charge of first-degree manslaughter. Paul had been charged with second-degree murder, with a firearm enhancement, for shooting and killing Walswick after confronting the 26-year-old about playing loud music around 4 a.m. in the parking lot at Village at Cascade Park Apartments, 501 S.E. 123rd Ave. in Vancouver.

Paul will be sentenced May 17 by Clark County Superior Court Judge Robert Lewis.

By pleading guilty, Paul faces substantially less prison time. Under sentencing guidelines, he will likely receive between six and a half years and eight and a half years. Had a jury convicted him of second-degree murder with a firearm enhancement, he would have faced a sentence of between more than 15 to 23 years.

Senior Deputy Prosecutor Al Harvey said Walswick was unarmed when Paul shot him in front of his apartment.

"The state has been unable to find evidence that there was any physical contact between the two of them," Harvey said. "There was no evidence of a struggle, no bruising."

Paul took his Glock 9 mm semi-automatic pistol and shot Walswick in the head, Harvey said. The bullet entered the top of Walswick's head; he was dead within hours, the prosecutor said.

Paul initially pleaded not guilty to any kind of crime. He believed he acted lawfully in self-defense, said his attorney, Steven Thayer.

Paul's account of events is that he confronted Walswick about blasting music from his car stereo in the parking lot around 4 a.m., Thayer said. Paul, armed with the pistol, tapped on Walswick's car window to get his attention, Thayer said. Walswick was "boiling" mad and chased Paul, he said.

"(Paul) tried to get away," Thayer said. "The guy kept coming." Paul shot Walswick to protect himself, Thayer said.

Walswick's body was found about 30 feet from his vehicle; he had been holding a black smartphone and his car keys, Thayer said.

Paul called 911 at 4:47 a.m. after shooting Walswick, according to court documents.

Walswick later died from the gunshot wound at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center.

Paul, who had no prior criminal history, was employed as a Fred Meyer grocery clerk at the time of his arrest.

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

Paris Achen: 360-735-4551; http://twitter.com/Col_Courts;http://facebook.com/ColTrends;paris.achen@columbian.com.