Simeon Berkley, 74, walks out of the Snohomish County Courthouse in Everett after his arraignment on Wednesday. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Simeon Berkley, 74, walks out of the Snohomish County Courthouse in Everett after his arraignment on Wednesday. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Everett man pleads not guilty in road rage killing

Simeon Berkley is out of jail. He’s charged with shooting Steven Whitemarsh through a car window, killing him.

EVERETT — An Everett man pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder Wednesday, for a deadly shooting that police suspect was an act of road rage.

Simeon Berkley, 74, has been out of jail since posting $750,000 bond last month. He approached the bench wearing glasses, a paisley tie and a navy blue blazer.

The defendant claimed he shot another driver, Steven Whitemarsh, 49, in self-defense on the evening of July 6, according to charging papers.

Whitemarsh’s Lincoln Navigator had rear-ended Berkley’s Honda Accord around 7 p.m. on Glenwood Avenue.

“The collision was likely caused by the Defendant slamming on his brakes in (Whitemarsh’s) lane of travel,” wrote Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Matt Hunter.

A diagnostic report showed Berkley’s car was going 60 mph three seconds before the crash, the charges say.

Whitemarsh, a father of three who worked as a manager at a local Safeway, had been en route to a union meeting. He never made it there.

An entire family witnessed the shooting. They described Berkley walking up to the other driver’s rolled-down window with a gun held to one side. Berkley fired a shot, waited a moment, then shot again, the family reported.

One witness heard the crackle and figured it was fireworks. He walked up to the crash and started to record video.

Charging papers recount the conversation.

The witness asked if the other driver was unconscious.

“He’s dead,” Berkley reportedly replied. “(He) wanted to get around me. … He started harassing me down on Mukilteo Boulevard.”

Berkley told him that Whitemarsh had been shot twice. The witness asked Berkley what happened to the gun.

“None of your business,” Berkley replied.

The question was repeated.

“Now you’re just being an (expletive),” Berkley answered.

Paramedics found Whitemarsh still strapped into his seat belt.

The shooter declined to write a statement for police, but he spoke with officers, briefly.

“Let me save you some time,” Berkley told police, the charges say. “He was chasing me. It was self-defense.”

Berkley, a mechanical engineer, posted bond July 17. Prosecutors did not ask for increased bail Wednesday.

The defendant’s next court hearing was set for Oct. 11.

In 1991, Berkley shot and paralyzed a man after a near-crash on I-8 in San Diego County, according to a story in the Los Angeles Times. Berkley claimed self-defense in that case, too. A jury acquitted him of attempted murder, but some jurors offered advice to the defendant after a trial.

“You keep that gun out of your car,” an unidentified juror told him, according to the Times story. “We didn’t feel that what you did was right at all, but we had to follow the law.”

According to charging papers, after he was acquitted, Berkley called an assistant district attorney in San Diego. Berkley reportedly told the attorney he was “going to (expletive) you up.”

Last month in a statement, Whitemarsh’s family described the man they lost as “a great friend, co-worker, dad, son and brother.”

The family said: “You were his friend the second you met him and he always had a smile on his face.”

Caleb Hutton: 425-339-3454; Twitter: @snocaleb.

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