An Everson-area man has been charged with attempted murder and robbery after he allegedly shot two men in a botched drug deal Saturday, Whatcom County Prosecutor David McEachran said.
Tita Keanu Preston Paul, 21, had intended to buy cocaine and Xanax pills from one of the men, McEachran told Martha Gross, a Whatcom County Superior Court commissioner, in a Tuesday hearing.
Officers arrested and booked Paul into the Whatcom County Jail late Saturday on suspicion of two counts of attempted murder and one count of robbery in the first degree. McEachran read the probable-cause statement at the hearing.
A Whatcom County sheriff’s deputy interviewed the two victims later Saturday as they were being treated for injuries at St. Joseph hospital, McEachran said. One man had been shot in the arm and thigh; the other had been shot in the buttocks and had been pistol-whipped in the head, McEachran said.
One of the men told investigators Paul had contacted him Saturday to ask about buying cocaine and Xanax pills, McEachran said. The man agreed to sell Paul the drugs and the two arranged to meet. He asked another man, who later became the other victim, to drive him to the meeting.
The two men took a white Toyota Highlander SUV to a location along Suchanon Drive in Everson, where they met Paul, McEachran said. Paul got in the backseat and they continued driving. After inspecting a sample of the cocaine, McEachran said, Paul agreed to buy the drugs and put them in his backpack.
He then appeared to reach for money but pulled out a pistol and pointed it in the passenger’s face, McEachran said, and demanded the man hand over everything he had. The passenger tried to grab the pistol and wrestle it away, but Paul kept hold of the gun and used it to pistol-whip the man, McEachran said.
The driver then stopped the car, got out and tried to pull Paul out of the backseat. A struggle ensued, and the men, realizing Paul still had the gun, ran away. That’s when they were both shot, McEachran said.
Callers reported hearing the shots about 10:30 p.m. near the 600 block of Chestnut Street in Everson, where the car had stopped, McEachran said. When officers arrived, they saw the white Toyota parked in the middle of the street, facing west, with the driver’s door open.
A man in a white jacket was lying in the street, moving one arm near his head, McEachran said. Blood was pooling near his left thigh as a witness tried to stop the bleeding.
Another man was standing beside the vehicle, McEachran said, and told them he had been shot in the buttocks and pistol-whipped in the head. Both men were taken to the hospital, McEachran said.
An officer with Nooksack Tribal Police also responded to the shooting call, and was driving to the scene when he saw Paul walking down Mission Road, McEachran said. Noticing Paul was bleeding from the head and not dressed for the rain, the officer stopped and asked Paul to lie face down on the ground, McEachran said.
Another officer removed a .40-caliber pistol from Paul’s pants, McEachran said. Officers determined the gun had been fired recently and the magazine was empty. They also found two more loaded magazines in Paul’s pants, McEachran said.
Near the white Toyota, officers found seven spent bullet casings that matched the ammunition in the magazines Paul was carrying, McEachran said. One of the rounds had hit a house in the area, he added.
Paul was then taken to jail.
He appeared briefly in court Monday, when Alan Chalfie, a public defender, told the court tPaul planned to hire a private attorney. When Paul appeared Tuesday, he still had not hired an attorney, telling the court his family was trying to gather money for one. Richard Larson, a deputy public defender, had volunteered to represent Paul for the hearing, but suggested the court formally appoint a public defender.
Paul faces two counts of robbery in the first degree while armed with a firearm and two counts of second-degree attempted murder while armed with a firearm, Gross said.
Paul’s bail had previously been set at $250,000. Larson asked it be reduced to $100,000, explaining that Paul had no criminal history and had been living in the Everson area for the last year.
McEachran urged the court to raise bail to $500,000, adding that he believed Paul was also a Canadian resident and did not want him to cross the border.
Paul’s family later told the court that Paul was a member of the Sechelt Indian Band of British Columbia, and could freely cross the border to access reservations on either side.
Gross set bail at $500,000.