Son of Bellingham City Council member shot and killed during ‘horseplay’ with friend

Police arrested a Bellingham man early Friday, April 3, after he told police he pointed a gun at a friend’s head and pulled the trigger, killing him.

Masen Jon Potter, 21, has been charged with first-degree manslaughter in Whatcom County Superior Court after he admitted to police that he shot and killed his friend, Aaron R. Bornemann, with a gun he thought was unloaded at the time, said Bellingham Police Lt. Bob Vander Yacht.

Bornemann, 23, is the son of Bellingham City Council member Terry Bornemann.

Potter couldn’t hold back tears as prosecutor Dave McEachran read a probable cause statement at Potter’s first appearance in court Friday afternoon.

Potter, Aaron Bornemann and at least one other person had been “horsing around” with a .22-caliber semi-automatic handgun Thursday night, April 2, at a rental home Potter lived in at 1241 Grant St., Vander Yacht said.

They had been dry firing the gun at various objects around the room. Somebody — it is not clear who — apparently loaded the gun at some point. Potter pointed the loaded gun at somebody else, then at Bornemann’s head, and fired, according to the probable cause statement.

Medics rushed Bornemann to St. Joseph hospital around 11 p.m. He was declared dead early Friday. Bornemann’s organs were being donated and autopsy results won’t be released before Monday, Whatcom County Medical Examiner Gary Goldfogel said.

Police have not yet determined who owned the gun. They arrested Potter early in the morning and booked him into Whatcom County Jail on suspicion of first-degree manslaughter, a class A felony. His bail was set at $100,000.

“There’s no intention here from him on his part, but it’s very reckless behavior for somebody to point the gun at someone and pull the trigger,” Vander Yacht said. “It’s a great tragedy.”

Terry Bornemann was still in disbelief Friday afternoon. He described Aaron as an “outgoing, caring person.” Aaron did landscaping during the day, and at night was involved in the local music scene. Aaron had been living at Terry’s home recently.

Terry said his son’s death was “tragic” and “unfathomable.” He said he doesn’t understand why society still glorifies gun use.

“This tragedy repeats itself over and over,” Terry said. “We’ve got to come to some kind of sense in this country over these senseless deaths through guns.”

Though he did not know Potter, Terry said a part of him still feels sorry for the 21-year-old, since the incident will change his whole life.

“I don’t hold animosity. It’s done. It’s over,” Bornemann said. “But I hope others can learn to stop being so ... damn stupid.”

Potter told police that he has experience with guns and gun safety. He was fully aware he shouldn’t have pointed the gun at a person, and admitted his actions were “dangerous and reckless,” according to the statement read in court. Vander Yacht said Potter “knows what’s right and what’s wrong to do” with guns.

Police are awaiting test results that will determine if alcohol or drugs were involved in the shooting. The case was still under investigation Friday.

Taylor Hertz, a friend who witnessed the shooting, said Aaron Bornemann will be missed by everyone he knew.

“He made people smile everywhere he went,” Hertz said. “No matter who you were, whether he knew you for a little while or a long time, he was there for you.”

Hertz didn’t want to talk about the shooting.

A City Council meeting scheduled for Monday, April 6, will be postponed until April 13 because of the incident.

Mayor Kelli Linville said she was shocked when she heard the news. The community will discuss how to prevent tragedies like these from happening in the future, she said.

“We have the kind of community that pulls together when things happen that are unfortunate or disasters, we’ve proven that in the past,” Linville said. “I think the city family, and when I say the city family, I mean all of us, are going to feel a lot of pain for the Bornemann family, and they’re going to say ‘how do we prevent these tragedies from happening?’ And that is a discussion that our community will have.”