Today we received documents from the King County Prosecutor’s Office that shed new light on the shooting that took the life of Aaron Sullivan in Leschi last week.
The suspect, Tristan N. Appleberry, is charged with 2nd degree homicide. First degree homicide requires proof of premeditation, which was apparently not a factor in this crime. That charge also precludes the death penalty from being an option for punishment.
We had previously heard that the shooting was due to a minor argument about a girl. But it now appears that it was even more minor than that: neither the victim nor the suspect were the primary parties to that disagreement.
Police spoke to multiple witnesses to the event, including the two friends of the victim who were in the car with him at the time of the shooting. They say that the root of the argument was between two men “K”, a friend of the victim, and “M”, a friend of the suspect, who had an ongoing dispute over a girl. The victim and his friends were hanging out at the dock next to Blue Water Bistro in Leschi earlier on the day of the shooting when Appleberry and M arrived. K was called and notified of M’s appearance there, but M and Appleberry left the scene once K arrived.
A group of the victim’s friends later drove to Appleberry’s house and parked a few houses to the south. Sometime later, an occupant of the victim’s car saw Appleberry approaching with an assault rifle, described as an AK-47. At first they thought it was a fake, but then heard him rack a bullet into the chamber. They were then momentarily distracted when an unidentified black male ran past the victim’s vehicle and pounded on the passenger side window, and as the victim began to drive away, a single shot was fired through the back window of the vehicle, striking Aaron Sullivan in the back of the head.
Both the other two occupants of the victim’s vehicle and a neighbor who heard the shot reported seeing Appleberry walk back towards his house, holding an assault rifle.
One of the witnesses also alleges to have seen Appleberry’s mother on the deck of their home, watching as the entire incident unfolded. She exited the house as police arrived and reportedly told police that her son was out with his girlfriend and not at home. Police statements have previously characterized her as uncooperative, and a contributing factor to the lengthy stand-off around the home that ended up with only an empty house and no sign of the suspect.
Crime-scene investigators found a single 7.62 caliber shell casing in the street behind where the victim’s vehicle was parked. They also recovered a fully loaded SKS 7.62 caliber rifle in Appleberry’s home matching the witness descriptions of the weapon used in the shooting.
Appleberry was apprehended due to a call from his girlfriend’s mother, who notified police when he showed up outside their West Seattle home.
That girlfriend was also interviewed by detectives, telling them that Appleberry had told her that the gun had “misfired” and that he did not intend to shoot the victim.
Tristan Appleberry is listed on the Seattle Times as once being a member of the football team at Nathan Hale.