Prosecutors said Wednesday that they don't believe the man committed a crime Jan. 9 when he fired on Johnny Sok, 22.
"We are quite certain that a jury would conclude that the shooting was justifiable self-defense," Prosecuting Attorney Mark Roe said.
He added that any loss of life is regrettable, however, in the eyes of the law, the shooting that ended Sok's life was not a crime.
Investigators believe Sok likely didn't know that anyone was home when he broke a kitchen window around 11:30 a.m.
"Somebody was home and he had a gun," Roe said.
The homeowner, a 54-year-old Boeing worker, said that he was woken up by the sound of breaking glass. He grabbed a .38-caliber revolver before stepping outside his bedroom to investigate. The man said he saw a stranger crawling inside through a broken kitchen window. The burglar had a hammer in his hand, the man said.
The homeowner told police he fired once. He also told deputies that after the shooting, he stood over the fallen man until it became clear that he was unconscious, court papers said. The homeowner called 911, telling the dispatcher that he'd shot someone.
He explained that the burglar was lying on the floor inside his home. He also said there was a car parked in front of his home and he believed it belonged to the man he'd shot.
Sok was dead when paramedics arrived. The medical examiner later concluded that Sok died from multiple gunshot wounds.
Prosecutors explained their decision to Sok's family, Roe said. The family had some lingering questions about what happened, in part because the homeowner exercised his right not to provide detectives with a statement.
The family questioned the man's claim that he fired once, Roe said. The number of shots has no bearing on whether the homicide was justifiable, Roe said. Once the right to use deadly force is established, the case law is silent about how much force is too much.
Roe explained that physical evidence corroborated what the homeowner told the deputies first on the scene.
Deputies noted that a plate glass window toward the rear of the house was broken. They also spotted a black hammer on a table. There was what appeared to be a fired bullet wedged between what remained of the window's glass panes, court papers said. They found the homeowner's gun on a kitchen counter.
Deputies canvassed the neighborhood and learned that a neighbor had spotted a man, matching Sok's description, walking toward the front of the house where the shooting happened. He said the man was wearing a stocking cap and dark clothing.
The car outside the house was registered to Sok. The Toyota was being sought by Everett police in connection with a Jan. 2 burglary in the city, according to court documents. Sok also was named as possible suspect in the investigation, the search warrant said.
"Burglaries are a dangerous business," Roe said.
Sheriff's detectives continue to investigate another fatal encounter between a homeowner and a burglary suspect in the Edmonds area.
On Feb. 7, Kenneth Talley, 26, was shot multiple times. A homeowner was on the phone with an emergency dispatcher when Talley, a stranger, reportedly kicked in a front door and stepped inside. Deputies found Talley on the ground inside the entryway.
The homeowner told police that Talley had first knocked on a sliding glass door and asked to come inside. The homeowner turned him away. He armed himself with a gun and called 911.
During their investigation, detectives learned that several minutes before the shooting, sheriff's deputies received reports of a car prowl about a block away. The caller told a dispatcher that someone who was trying to break into a car fled and was possibly running through back yards.
Man trackers later were able to determine that the person who was breaking into the car had run toward the house where the shooting happened, court papers said.
Detectives are waiting on the results of evidence being tested at the state crime lab. Eventually, prosecutors will decide if the homeowner faces charges.
Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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