Boy playing with gun allegedly shot and killed Edmonds girl

The defendant, 16, who attended Edmonds-Woodway, is accused of first-degree manslaughter.

EDMONDS — A boy playing with a revolver shot and killed a teenager at an Edmonds apartment, then went into hiding for days, according to new court records.

Prosecutors have accused the boy, 16, of first-degree manslaughter. Judge George Appel set bail at $100,000 in juvenile court Tuesday.

Because of the defendant’s age and the charge, the case is expected to be sent automatically to adult Superior Court.

Gala Zuehlke, 17, an Edmonds-Woodway High School senior, was shot to death at an apartment in the 7400 block of 208th Street SW. At first, a friend told police she opened an unlocked door around 3 p.m. Friday and found the girl dead, but did not have a working cellphone. So she told them she ran a half-mile to her home, and her father called 911.

A downstairs neighbor had heard arguing between two people — a male voice and a female voice — for about an hour before police arrived and confirmed the girl was deceased.

The friend later changed her story. She told police she was at the apartment with Gala and a 16-year-old boy from Mountlake Terrace. The boy had a silver revolver with a black grip, and ammo stolen from the mother of a friend nicknamed Taco, court papers say.

The boy loaded one round, the girl reported. He started to pull the trigger, and he “did not realize that each time he did this the cylinder advanced the bullet closer to the chamber,” according to the girl’s story. He said something to the effect of nothing would happen. He aimed the gun at Gala and pulled the trigger one more time. The gun fired.

The friend panicked and ran home. Police discovered Gala on her right side on the bed. She’d suffered a gunshot wound to her face. No gun was in the room. Snohomish County Medical Examiner Dr. Daniel Selove classified the death as homicide.

Officers went to the boy’s home. He had been reported as a runaway Nov. 21.

One of the boy’s friends reportedly told police the suspect showed up at his house, saying he shot the girl and ditched the gun, without saying how he’d gotten rid of it. A tip led detectives to another friend’s home on Maltby Road. Police were told the boy was planning to flee to Oregon.

Officers caught the suspect as he left the house Monday. He initially was arrested for investigation of second-degree murder.

The boy reportedly told police he’d pointed the gun at both girls. In his version of events, he’d emptied the rounds, and right before the gun went off, he noticed one bullet remained. But he kept pulling the trigger anyway. He didn’t think the gun would fire, because that bullet was at the bottom of the cylinder, according to his statement in court papers.

Court papers don’t say if the gun had been reported as stolen. How the boy acquired it isn’t made totally clear in police reports. Much of the case was still being investigated Tuesday, Edmonds police Sgt. Josh McClure said.

This year the City of Edmonds passed a law requiring gun owners to keep firearms locked up and safe from a child or thief, with violations punishable by up to $10,000 fines. The National Rifle Association and others challenged the law in Snohomish County Superior Court. The next hearing in the lawsuit is set for January, before Judge Anita Farris.

Police said Monday the gun hadn’t been found. The boy reportedly told police he took an Uber to the house west of Maltby, and left the gun there. McClure declined to say if a weapon had been recovered by Tuesday.

Last year in divorce papers, the boy’s parents noted their son had struggled with a messy family breakup.

“(He) used to play football and was involved in drama and dancing,” his mother wrote in Oct. 2017, “but is failing school currently and refusing to be involved in any type of extracurricular activity.”

At the time, he was in 10th grade at Edmonds-Woodway. His parents wrote about an incident where he ran away from home in the midst of a custody fight. In a January filing, his father noted he got in touch with an at-risk youth program to help his son stay on track — and that his parents were doing better at working together, for the boy’s sake.

Gala, an e-Learning student, went to Edmonds-Woodway for two years, according to a letter from the principal. She was remembered “fondly by both staff and students as a warm and friendly young woman.”

Family declined to speak Tuesday outside the Denney Juvenile Justice Center in Everett.

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

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