BELLINGHAM - A Bellingham man will not face criminal charges in the death of a neighbor whom he pushed through a balcony railing during a confrontation this January, according to the Whatcom County Prosecutor's Office.
James Lacey, 38, died in the hospital after going through the railing and falling about 10 feet onto an asphalt parking lot at the Maplewood Junction apartment complex Jan. 31. He had been arguing with his neighbor, Daniel Savage, who pushed him after the argument got physical at Savage's front door.
"The death of Mr. Lacey from this seemingly inconsequential confrontation was truly a tragic result for everyone involved," County Prosecuting Attorney Dave McEachran said in announcing Monday, July 23, that no charges would be filed.
The incident began when Lacey had been throwing up outside at about 8 a.m. and Savage yelled at him from his back balcony to go inside. Shortly after, Lacey showed up upset at Savage's front door, and the conversation became heated. Savage told police that Lacey hit him in the face and he responded by pushing Lacey, who fell to his knees. Savage said that Lacey immediately got back up and lunged at him. Savage pushed him again and Lacey tumbled backward through the railing. Lacey struck his head, and died from his injuries the next day.
While there are some differences in witness accounts, for the most part they agreed with Savage's version of what happened, according to McEachran's summary of the police investigation. Savage gave the same account when interviewed by a reporter from The Bellingham Herald after the incident.
McEachran called Lacey the aggressor, since he approached Savage and pushed and struck him. In a situation where no weapons were involved, the men's sizes play a role in figuring out whether the force used was reasonable for the conditions - a factor in determining when homicide is justifiable for self-defense. Both men were large; Savage is 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, but Lacey was an inch taller and 100 pounds heavier, according to McEachran.
"After having gone over this entire investigation, having viewed all of (the) photographs taken of this matter and having visited the scene of this tragedy, I cannot find that Mr. Savage used more force than a reasonably prudent person would use under these circumstances," McEachran said. "Therefore, there will be no criminal charges filed in this matter."
Neither Savage nor Lacey's family could be reached for comment after the announcement late Monday afternoon.
READ PROSECUTOR'S DECISION
Whatcom County Prosecuting Attorney Dave McEachran issued this press release outlining the pushing incident, the investigation and explaning his conclusions.
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