PORT ANGELES — A 17-year-old suspected of shooting and killing Tristen LeeShawn James Pisani, 19, after being called a “tweaker” during a small, early-morning party Sunday has been ordered held in the Clallam County juvenile detention center on $1 million bail.
Phillip Z. Cowles, who according to court documents confessed to shooting Pisani, was covered with bruises as he appeared via television from the detention center Monday.
Charges will be filed at 1 p.m. Wednesday.
Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Michele Devlin asked Judge Lauren Erickson to set bail at $1 million because of the risk Cowles presents to the community.
“There are allegations there was a party at the victim Mr. Pisani’s home,” Devlin said. “Mr. Cowles was there. He leaves, goes home, grabs a firearm and walks a mile and a half back to Mr. Pisani’s home with the firearm … and allegedly shot him dead.”
Erickson found probable cause that Cowles committed first-degree murder and agreed that Cowles “presents a substantial danger to the community,” rejecting Cowles’ attorney’s request that he be released without bail.
When Forks police officers arrived to the 1300 block of Big Burn Place shortly after 5:30 a.m. Sunday, two witnesses had “detained” Cowles and he was arrested without incident.
Pisani was dead.
Cowles told investigators he shot and killed Pisani because he felt bullied and didn’t like being called a “tweek.”
Witnesses told investigators that Cowles showed up to the party and was acting strange. When Pisani asked Cowles why he was “tweaking,” Cowles said not to call him a tweaker, according to court records.
“Phillip texted Tristen saying he did not like being called a ‘Tweaker’ and he was coming back with a gun,” court records say.
Cowles told investigators he took a knife, a revolver and .44 caliber ammunition from the closet in his mother’s bedroom before returning to the party.
Chief Criminal Deputy Brian King said detectives are investigating whether the mother is criminally culpable under the new regulations voters approved under Initiative 1639.
On July 1 it became a felony to not securely store a firearm that is then used by someone ineligible to possess a firearm to injure or kill someone, according to the attorney general’s office.
“We’re proceeding in the direction that we need to know the circumstances surrounding the security and access to the weapon, but we would do that in any investigation,” King said. “That certainly is an element of our investigation at this point. It’s not necessarily the priority of our investigation, but certainly we have concerns about how there was such easy access to the weapon.”
Cowles said Pisani kept sending him antagonizing texts, even after he left, including a message that “pushed him too far.”
“I knew what I was going to do,” Cowles said during an interview with investigators, according to court records.
Witnesses said Cowles went back to house after the party had ended, aimed the gun at Pisani’s head and said “don’t call me a tweaker,” before firing the gun.
Cowles told investigators Pisani told him to “go ahead, do it.”
“I remember the rage overtook me,” Cowles said, according to court records. “As soon as I pulled that trigger. I didn’t even have to hear that sound. I knew what I did.”
That’s when witnesses detained Cowles. They struggled for the firearm and one person kept hitting Cowles until he stopped fighting back.
When police took Cowles into custody, a holster fell from his waistband. In his pocket was a box of .44 caliber ammunition.
A revolver was found on a cooler in the house.
Later, in an interview with Clallam County Sheriff’s deputies, Cowles said he was offended that he was called a “tweek.” He had used cocaine for a short time but had been clean for a month, he said, according to court records.
This story was originally published in the Peninsula Daily News, a sibling paper to the Herald.