PASCO — Froilan Campos-Gonzalez Jr. pleaded guilty Tuesday to a December shooting that left his younger neighbor paralyzed but still insisted he was provoked by the victim and forced to pull the trigger.
"Say the truth, Gregg," Campos-Gonzalez shouted after the hearing.
Corrections officials were taking his fingerprints when he turned and faced Gregg Warehime, who was leaving the courtroom with his family. Warehime did not respond, but a couple of Campos-Gonzalez's loved ones could be seen shaking their heads.
Campos-Gonzalez, 54, had until Tuesday to accept a plea offer or face a trial in July for first-degree assault. He opted to go with the deal for a reduced charge of attempted first-degree assault, and a stipulated eight-year sentence which was above the standard range.
Warehime's family asked for more time, suggesting 15 years because the young man's life is forever changed and he now must use a wheelchair to get around.
The attack on her son was never about a BB gun or what police said was a dispute over dogs, Retta Warehime told the court. Campos-Gonzalez accused her son of "numerous impossible things."
"This was all about the delusions of a paranoid, angry man," Retta Warehime said.
"He shot my son and, with a gun to his head, dragged his bloody, paralyzed body 30 feet to the back of the house," she added. "He did take my son's life, the life he once had. My son, through no fault of his own, spends his days in a wheelchair."
The suspect claimed his west Pasco neighbors had long been firing airsoft pellets and throwing rocks at his house and poisoning his lawn and trees. His behavior reportedly escalated in the months leading up to the Dec. 8 shooting with neighbors like Gregg Warehime questioning if Campos-Gonzalez was delusional, yet no one felt he was open to hearing their concerns or suggestions to get help.
Dan Warehime said his son called Pasco police no less than six times about his issues with Campos-Gonzalez and the allegations being made against him and his roommates, but was told nothing could be done until Campos-Gonzalez actually did something.
"Well, your honor, he did something. He snapped on that day," Dan Warehime said. "My son is going to pay for it for the rest of his life. Eight years is not a sufficient amount of time. ... Stop him from coming back and doing what he said he was going to do on that day -- take my son's life."
Prosecutors claim Campos-Gonzalez went across the street to Gregg Warehime's home and banged on the front door, forced his way inside and confronted him about his allegations over the BB gun.
Warehime told Campos-Gonzalez to leave, hit him in the face and ducked to avoid a punch by the suspect, but Campos-Gonzalez surprised his neighbor when he pulled a pistol from behind him and fired it once at Warehime, court documents said.
Warehime -- a 24-year-old medical assistant and nursing student at the time -- was paralyzed after the bullet entered his stomach and hit his spine.
He said in a document earlier this year that Campos-Gonzalez -- who goes by the nickname JR -- was loud and frantic and "shouting wildly about a BB gun."
Warehime said he tried to calm Campos-Gonzalez down in the minutes before he was shot and again after an attempt to save his life. He said a gun was shoved in his face while he opened a gun safe in his back bedroom, but when Campos-Gonzalez realized the BB gun wasn't there he had to suggest his roommate took it just to get his attacker out of the house.
Since then, Warehime said he tries to be strong for his parents, sisters and friends, telling them ever day how well he is doing or how far he's progressed. Yet all he can think about is "how much my life has changed forever."
He had dreamed of being a surgeon in an emergency room but can no longer stand up to look over the operating beds, and at this point doesn't know if he will go back to nursing school.
"For the rest of my life I will be limited by my injury that was caused by the defendant," Warehime said.
Amy Olson, Campos-Gonzalez's oldest daughter, said her family had been advised not to speak while the case was pending, but told Warehime she has prayed for a speedy recovery for him.
"This one action was a tragic thing that happened. It does not define my father, his character or who he's been his entire life," she said. "We are not a family who hurts people. We don't have vengeance toward anybody."
Olson said it breaks her heart to see her dad in court with these charges and she tries to remain brave. She said she understood why the Warehimes were asking for 15 years, but added that she'd like to see her dad back at home where he is missed and needed.
"This is not something that we wish upon anybody," Olson said. "I know the family is hurting and we are hurting as well. There are two families here that have been tragically hurt by this."
Campos-Gonzalez was expected to claim self-defense, saying Warehime had his hands around his throat, even though he had pushed his way into the victim's home.
On Tuesday, Campos-Gonzalez said he has his hurt his family with these charges but told Judge Craig Matheson he is sending an innocent man to prison.
Warehime is the one who attacked and was choking him, Campos-Gonzalez claimed.
"I just hope that one day he will be honest with his family," he added. "I thank you very much and I do apologize. I'm very sorry."
A defense evaluation indicated that Campos-Gonzalez suffered from delusions that may have been fueled by prescription pain medications.
Lawyer Jim Egan said his client became paranoid and psychotic and even "was driven insane" after over-medicating for many years, but told Matheson the "legal system is a mess" because it has no way of properly dealing with mental cases.
Egan said Campos-Gonzalez agreed to the offer with the recommended prison time, but if the judge was considering adding to the term he wanted to withdraw his plea and take his chances at trial.
Matheson -- after taking a 30-minute recess to review the testimony of both families and court documents -- said he thought 96 months was "enough" in this case given Campos-Gonzalez's mental illness.
The judge agreed with Egan's comments on the judicial system's shortcomings and said even though it was clear Campos-Gonzalez "had some episodes of mental illness" and was unstable, he wasn't able to order treatment while in prison.
"This obviously is a very raw, and it should be, experience for the victim and the victim's family, and I understand their request for a severe sentence. And I think the act itself calls for that," Matheson said.
However, a longer sentence was negated by Campos-Gonzalez's mental issues and the "thoughtful, careful negotiations" between both sides, he said.
Matheson added that no matter what punishment he gave, nothing would make up for Warehime's injury or "make the victim whole." But it was a severe sentence for a man who has never been before a court his entire life, he said.
-- Kristin M. Kraemer: 582-1531; firstname.lastname@example.org