Tacoma - The McKenna man who shot and killed a 20-year-old man who was picking up metal pipe near his house June 9 will not face charges.
There wasn’t enough evidence to support a homicide charge against William David Morgan, 69, Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist said Friday.
Morgan was arrested by Pierce County sheriff’s deputies in the shooting death of Joseph Tobeck of Tenino. Tobeck and a friend, Robert Justus, were outside Morgan’s home that night picking up pipe from the roadside across the street from Morgan’s home in the 8900 block of South 358th Street.
Morgan confronted them and fired shots at their truck, court papers state. He told deputies that he fired when Tobeck tried to drive over him with his truck as the men fled.
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“Mr. Tobeck’s death is tragic,” Lindquist said in announcing his decision. ”Before my office can file criminal charges, however, we need to be satisfied that we can prove those charges beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Deputy Prosecutor Steve Pen-ner said he and Lindquist met Friday with the Tobeck family before making the announcement.
“Obviously, they were disappointed with the decision,” Penner said.
From his review of the entire file, Penner said the only witnesses were Morgan and Justus. No neighbors were outside until after the shots were fired.
Since giving his statement to deputies on the night of the shooting, Morgan has said nothing more.
“We can’t compel him to tell us what he knows,” Penner said.
As for Justus, Lindquist said his testimony is tainted after he initially lied to detectives about how he and Tobeck came to be loading pipe into their truck at 10 p.m.
In addition, he said, Justus’ account changed over time and “he denied seeing what happened during the shooting, claiming he was ducked down in the truck as it tried to flee the area.” After the shots were fired, the car crashed into a tree.
Penner said shell casings found at the scene didn’t prove where Morgan was standing at the time of the shooting.
“With shell casings, they can be moved,” Penner said. “Some were in the roadway, some in the driveway.”
Lindquist emphasized in his statement that his decision should not be interpreted as an endorsement of vigilantism.
“In the end, we would have had to prove bey- ond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Morgan was not in reasonable fear of death or great bodily harm,” he said. “Given the phys- ical evidence in this case and the problems with Mr. Justus’ credibility, we simply could not have carried that burd- en.”
Penner said Morgan does not have the right to shoot someone who might be stealing pipe from him, but he does have the right to defend himself from harm.
Morgan was freed with conditions the day after his arrest to allow prosecutors time to complete their investigation.
Mike Archbold: 253-597-8692 firstname.lastname@example.org