Argument among Finley family members ends in shooting death

Tri-City HeraldMarch 25, 2013 

— An argument among three family members ended with one person dead Friday and investigators say it could take up to two weeks to decide whether one of the men used reasonable force when he shot and killed 53-year-old Jerry L. Barton.

The Benton County Sheriff’s Office and Benton County prosecutors decided to release Timothy Brown, 24, pending the investigation. Brown shot Barton in the chest with a .25-caliber handgun after an argument, Prosecutor Andy Miller said at a Monday news conference.

Sheriff’s Detective Lee Cantu said Barton got into an argument with Brown’s 74-year-old grandfather, Oliver James Smith, who is also Barton’s stepfather, while working on a cattle chute. The three men live on the same property at 196905 E. Bowles Road in Finley.

Barton reportedly threw Smith off an ATV and hovered over him while he lay on the ground, Cantu said. Brown heard the altercation from a house on the property and fired “warning shots” while Barton stood over Smith.

Cantu said as Brown approached the men, Barton lunged toward him and grabbed onto his wrists. Brown then fired one shot into Barton’s chest, killing him.

Miller said a person has the right to defend themselves and others with reasonable force if they are threatened.

“We want to make sure we get all of the statements, get all the investigation done and get all the autopsy results,” he said. “Then come to a conclusion as to whether this homicide was justifiable or not.”

Smith was still on the ground when deputies arrived and had to be taken to a hospital for treatment, Miller said. Brown was released hours after the shooting.

Kennewick attorney Scott Johnson, who has been hired by Brown, said the shooting was a family tragedy.

“Tim wanted to make sure that it’s clear he has been fully cooperating with authorities since this happened, and he plans on continuing to cooperate with them,” Johnson told the Herald. “This incident is just tragic for his entire family given the relationships between himself, his uncle and his grandfather.”

-- Tyler Richardson: 582-1556;; Twitter: @Ty_richardson

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