EVERETT — Witnesses described a man as “excessively calm and emotionless” in the moments after he allegedly shot a stranger twice in the head in Everett during a road rage incident earlier this month, according to new charges filed in Snohomish County Superior Court.
Simeon Berkley, 74, of Everett, was still lingering at the scene in the 5200 block of Glenwood Avenue when police arrived on July 6. He appeared to enjoy the attention, witnesses reported.
He was charged Friday with second-degree murder. The man he is accused of killing, Steven Whitemarsh, was described as a well-liked manager at a Safeway in Everett and the father of three girls. He was on his way to a union meeting.
“He was a great friend, co-worker, dad, son and brother,” his family said in a statement. “You were his friend the second you met him and he always had a smile on his face.”
Berkley was released from the Snohomish County Jail July 17 after posting $750,000 bond.
If convicted, Berkley could face up to 23 years in prison, according to state guidelines, based in part on his lack of criminal history. A California jury in 1991 acquitted Berkely of attempted murder after he shot a man in the back, paralyzing him, following a near-crash on a San Diego-area freeway. During his trial, Berkley argued that he acted in self defense.
July’s encounter on Glenwood Avenue appeared to be inspired by road rage, authorities said.
Berkley was driving a Honda Accord when he was rear-ended around 7 p.m. by a Lincoln Navigator SUV, according to a police report.
When talking to a witness, Berkley reportedly claimed that Whitemarsh was drunk and had been harassing him. Berkley explained he slowed down to let Whitemarsh drive around.
A diagnostics report from Berkley’s car showed that he was going 60 mph when he slammed on the brakes hard enough to activate the anti-locking system, according to charging papers.
The speed limit on that section of Glenwood is 35 mph.
A family said they were driving by when they saw the rear-end collision and pulled over. They watched as Berkley got out of his car with a gun drawn, down by his side, according to court papers. He then walked up to the Lincoln’s driver-side window, which had been rolled down, and shot Whitemarsh, they reported.
Then, after a few seconds, Berkley allegedly fired again.
When another witness arrived at the scene, with a video camera running, Whitemarsh’s SUV was smoking and revving loudly.
In the video, Berkley reportedly told the witness not to bother helping Whitemarsh. “He’s got two bullets in his head,” he said, according to charging papers.
A medical examiner reportedly described a gunshot wound to Whitemarsh’s face and another in the back of his head. It appeared the bullets had been fired from about three feet away through an open car window, police wrote. The Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled his death a homicide.
Berkley stayed at the scene, court papers say. Police found him standing on the sidewalk nearby, talking on a cellphone. After witnesses pointed him out, officers allegedly found a loaded .380-caliber pistol in his pocket. A bullet was in the chamber.
The gun’s ammunition appeared to match two casings found near Whitemarsh’s vehicle.
Berkley briefly talked to an Everett police officer, according to charging court documents.
“I’ll make your job easy, it was self defense,” he reportedly said. “He was chasing me.”
However, a witness said he didn’t hear any arguing happen before the shooting, according to the police report. Any conversation they did have would have been brief, the witness reported.
“Nothing at the scene or statements provided by witnesses indicated that Berkley was in any danger at the time of the shooting,” an officer wrote.
Later, the defendant’s wife told police that he’d left home to pick up dinner from a restaurant in Mukilteo. She said he didn’t say what happened but told her that she needed to call the restaurant and tell them that he was going to be delayed in picking up their food.