EVERETT — Brian Wingender made one bad decision after another.
After being robbed in South America, he bought a firearm.
He started self-medicating with anti-anxiety pills from the black market. He dealt marijuana.
Then, on March 13, 2017, he chose to go into Everett, armed, “in the middle of the night,” to sell two pounds of pot, a Snohomish County judge said Thursday. The drug deal ended in a fatal shooting.
Though Wingender, now 23, makes a reasonable argument that he fired in self-defense, his decisions led him into the confrontation, Judge Anthony Howard said. Wingender was “defending himself and those drugs,” and it resulted in the loss of a life, the judge said.
“This case is so tragic in so many ways,” he said.
Howard sentenced Wingender to nearly four years behind bars. The punishment had been recommended by both prosecutors and the defense. Wingender is likely to serve three of those years, based on how prison time is calculated. He pleaded guilty in April to possessing drugs with the intent to deliver them. His sentence included 18 months for bringing a weapon.
Wingender and Dustin Bradshaw met two other young men to sell them drugs near Clark Park.
Francisco Vazquez, then 17, and John Muhlstein, 18, had other plans. They tried to rob Wingender and Bradshaw.
Wingender later told police he was pistol-whipped before running from the car, carrying the bag of marijuana.
He said that Muhlstein, who also was armed, chased him. Wingender shot Vazquez, who survived, and Muhlstein, who died from his injuries.
Vazquez, a gang member with extensive criminal history, was prosecuted as an adult. He was convicted of first-degree robbery and sentenced to more than five years.
Bradshaw, now 23, of Bothell, was sentenced in April to just under two years for an unrelated drive-by shooting in King County. His time for the Everett offense was ordered to be served concurrently.
On Thursday, defense attorney Eric Lindell said Wingender carried his firearm as a “security blanket” to reduce his anxiety. He said Wingender, who lives in Kenmore, had mental health issues as a result of being robbed before and was paranoid about his safety.
That doesn’t make sense for someone who was dealing drugs, Howard said.
Counseling would have been a better option than taking pills without a prescription, the judge said.
“You were struggling,” he said. “You chose to arm yourself, and with that choice comes profound responsibility.”
In court papers, Wingender maintained he didn’t believe himself guilty as charged, but acknowledged that he likely would be convicted based on the evidence. He spoke briefly in court Thursday, saying “I’m sorry.”
“I would do anything to go back and change the outcome,” he said.
Wingender had remained free on bail after his initial court hearing in March 2017. He was taken into custody Thursday.