An Olympia man was sentenced to 8½ years in prison Thursday for fatally shooting a friend in the head in the man’s Tumwater bedroom after an evening out drinking.
Shane McKinlay, 23, was sentenced as part of a plea deal immediately after pleading guilty to first-degree manslaughter in the death of Andy Wattenberg, 24. In exchange for the plea, prosecutors dropped a charge of second-degree murder. First-degree manslaughter is defined as recklessly causing another person’s death.
Thurston County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Scott Jackson said that for lack of a better word, McKinlay was simply “stupid” in placing a .357 Magnum against Wattenberg’s head and pulling the trigger while a bullet was in the cylinder.
“It was something that did not have to happen,” he said.
Wattenberg’s family addressed Superior Court Judge James Dixon before the sentencing and described their despair, crying as they spoke. Wattenberg had worked for Olympia Auto Body for five years, doing custom paint jobs on cars, parents Mike and Vicki said.
Vicki Wattenberg described how she misses her son’s smile and kindness. She expressed regret for the kindness she and her family had shown McKinlay during the years he was friends with her son.
“There is no limit to the bitterness that I feel over his act of violence,” Vicki Wattenberg told Dixon. “He was 24, and there was so much left.”
She then addressed McKinlay directly.
“Andy was your friend, he stood up for you, he looked out for you,” she told him.
Andy Wattenberg’s older sister Sara wore one of Andy’s sweatshirts from Olympia Auto Body, saying it’s one of the only reminders she has of her brother.
Michael Wattenberg described to the court the horror of getting a phone call informing him that his son had been shot dead.
“I felt like my heart was ripped from my chest,” he said.
Tumwater police were dispatched to a home in the 6500 block of Henderson Boulevard Southeast on a report of a gunshot fired about 5 a.m. May 27. One of Wattenberg’s roommates told police that he’d seen McKinlay leave Wattenberg’s room “in a panic” after the roommate was awakened by a gunshot.
Wattenberg and McKinlay were the only people in Wattenberg’s bedroom at the time of the shooting. McKinlay, who had no criminal history, changed his story to police multiple times about what happened. He initially said he thought the wound was self-inflicted, but a roommate told police Wattenberg wasn’t suicidal. When officers told McKinlay the roommate had seen him leave the room, McKinlay “attempted to say he was intoxicated to the point that he did not know what happened,” court papers state.
McKinlay’s attorney, Paul Strophy, told Dixon that his client was in a state of shock after shooting Wattenberg and “couldn’t process it all.”
“It was truly disbelief over what he had done,” Strophy said. “They were like brothers; they were extremely close.”
According to court papers:
Later after the shooting, McKinlay told Tumwater detective Chuck Liska that the pair had been talking about and looking at guns in Wattenberg’s bedroom. He also told Liska that before pulling the trigger, he said words to the effect of, “this would be funny.” McKinlay said he did not intend to kill Wattenberg, that he was messing around and that his actions were a joke.
McKinlay apologized Thursday.
“I’m extremely sorry and feel absolutely terrible about it,” he said. “He was more than a friend; he was a brother. I’m just extremely sorry.”
Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5445