EVERETT — Charles Courtney joined the Army when he turned 18 and was deployed to Iraq a year later.
The Lynnwood man saw the horrors of war up close during his two tours in the Middle East, his attorney said Tuesday. Friends were blown up and Courtney was shot at by insurgents.
Courtney’s time in the military, including his training and war experiences, are expected to play a critical role in his defense against a first-degree murder charge. Courtney, 25, is accused of shooting an unarmed 16-year-old boy in the back last year.
“Mr. Courtney was responding the way the Army trained him to …,” Snohomish County public defender Whitney Rivera said. “When he pulled the trigger it was to protect his family. That’s why he shot someone he didn’t know.”
Courtney’s trial started Tuesday and is expected to last a few weeks.
Prosecutors allege that the defendant hunted down Anthony Boro on Oct. 6, 2015. Courtney was a drug dealer who let runaway girls crash at his Lynnwood-area apartment, Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Jarett Goodkin told jurors.
One of those runaways told Courtney that she saw one of his rivals and others near his apartment building earlier that evening. She claimed the group was wearing bandanas and carrying weapons. Courtney told police he never saw the group, Goodkin said.
“The events of that night aren’t completely clear,” Goodkin said.
Witnesses, some of whom were high on drugs, have conflicting accounts of what happened. There is no dispute, however, that Courtney “pulled out his gun from his waistband, lined up his shot and fired” at Anthony as the teen was running away, Goodkin said. Anthony was some 50 feet from where Courtney stood in the parking lot.
The Mariner High School sophomore was struck from behind. The bullet hit his spine, paralyzing him instantly. He crumpled to the ground. The bullet traveled into his heart.
Co-defendant Jesse Landrum repeatedly kicked the injured teen in the ribs. Anthony died in the parking lot in less than a minute.
Last month, Landrum was sentenced to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to second-degree murder.
Courtney didn’t know Anthony Boro, Goodkin told jurors in opening statements. He didn’t know if the teen was associated with Courtney’s rival. The defendant also admitted that he never saw Anthony with a weapon.
Instead, he reportedly bragged that he had “just gotten his first confirmed kill,” court papers said.
After the shooting, he reloaded his gun and left the apartment to buy heroin. Detectives found heroin in his pockets, including some packaged for sales, Goodkin said.
Her client is a trained soldier, who was in a state of hyper-vigilance, Rivera told jurors.
Courtney had been told that more than a dozen armed and masked men had been seen near his Lynnwood-area apartment, including a man who’d threatened to kill him. Other tenants will testify that they saw this group. One tenant was worried enough to call 911.
Her client saw two people standing outside his door and believed he needed to protect himself and his home, Rivera said.
“He’s in active threat schema,” she said.
He saw Anthony running but didn’t know where the others were. He also believed the teen was reaching for something in his waistband, Rivera said. It is undisputed that he is responsible for shooting Anthony, but she urged jurors to pay close attention to the events leading up to the gunfire.
“Charles Courtney reacted to that threat on his safety and his family’s safety the way he was trained — to eliminate it,” she said.
Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; email@example.com.