Jury weighs self-defense claim in Arlington killing

EVERETT — Dennis Watters was afraid for his life when he fired his handgun into a car at the Blue Stilly Park last year.

One of the bullets struck the passenger, Ryan Mumm, in the temple. The 20-year-old died the next day.

Watters told the cops that he opened fire because he thought Mumm was shooting at him. He said Mumm first pointed a gun at him and then began firing as he passed Watters’ pickup truck.

He “came face-to-face with a young man who was out of control,” defense attorney Jennifer Rancourt said. “Dennis Watters acted out of terror, out of fear and out of panic.”

She called the killing tragic but justifiable.

“The reason Ryan Mumm lost his life was because he pointed a loaded firearm directly at Dennis Watters,” Rancourt said.

Prosecutors painted a different picture of the defendant on Tuesday during closing arguments. Deputy prosecutor Cindy Larsen said Watters, 42, rushed into a beef between young people to prove he was a “tough guy.” He wanted to be the hero.

“He killed someone in cold blood because he was amped up. Why? Because he didn’t want to be” seen as weak, Larsen said.

There was no evidence that Mumm fired at Watters, she told jurors.

The defendant never called 911 to report that he was assaulted or that he shot someone in self-defense. Watters only came clean after police showed up at his doorstep four days later, Larsen said. By then, he had tried to cover up the damage to his pickup truck, cleaned and reloaded his gun and devised a self-defense claim.

“This was all evidence of a guilty conscience. He knew what he did was wrong,” Larsen said.

The Tulalip-area man is charged with first-degree and second-degree murder for the July 14, 2012, shooting. He also is charged with two counts of first-degree assault for later firing at Mumm and another man as their car sped away along Highway 530.

A Snohomish County jury began deliberations Tuesday afternoon. Jurors are faced with a set of complicated legal questions, including whether Watters committed murder under two different theories or whether the slaying was justified.

Prosecutors allege that Watters committed first-degree murder under the theory that he fatally shot Mumm “under circumstance manifesting an extreme indifference to human life.”

Larsen argued that Watters fired his gun indiscriminately in a crowded park, endangering Mumm and other bystanders. He knew there was a grave risk of someone dying and he disregarded the risk, Larsen said.

The deputy prosecutor also argued that Watters is guilty of second-degree murder under the alternate theory that he intended to kill Mumm but didn’t plan the slaying. Jurors also have the option to convict Watters of manslaughter if they don’t find him guilty of murder. They also must decide whether prosecutors proved that the killing wasn’t justifiable.

Watters did not testify during the trial. Instead, jurors heard the recorded statement he provided to Snohomish County sheriff’s detective Joe Dunn and Dave Bilyeu.

Watters told the detectives he had been stupid for getting involved, but he never intended to hurt anyone.

His buddy had asked for his help after the man’s daughter reported being assaulted earlier in the day. Mumm’s friend stole $20 worth of a marijuana from a group of people. A fight broke out. Later, the two groups agreed to meet up at the popular Arlington park to fight some more.

Watters was asked to join the group. He said he had second thoughts when his friend told him that he was armed.

“And that’s when I thought, man, I shouldn’t even (expletive) be here. OK? And I was gonna tell ‘em ‘Dude, why don’t you call the cops or something. Take care of this a different way’ … but I didn’t want to be a (expletive),” Watters said.

Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; hefley@heraldnet.com.

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