A Pasco homeowner was defending himself when he shot and killed a stranger who suddenly appeared in his hallway early June 10, prosecutors said Friday.
Corey Chapman “acted in good faith and on reasonable grounds” when confronted by an intoxicated Travis Yeates inside his own home, said Franklin County Prosecutor Shawn Sant.
Yeates, 34, died from a single bullet wound to his chest.
Sant’s decision, announced in a four-page news release, wrapped up a more than four-month investigation into whether it was justifiable homicide.
“After reviewing the facts and evidence in this case, it appears that Mr. Chapman was in reasonable fear of injury at the time he shot Mr. Yeates,” Sant wrote.
Chapman told police that he had been in a deep sleep when he heard a loud pounding on the front door of his Austin Drive home.
He grabbed his loaded .40-caliber pistol and his cellphone from his bedside and immediately called the police.
It was 2:22 a.m.
Two Pasco police officers were outside the home two minutes later when Yeates got in through the unlocked garage door and reportedly lunged at Chapman in his dark hallway.
Chapman, who reported seeing a “shadow,” told the intruder to stop before firing once.
“He got in the house, I don’t know how. Yeah, I just shot him. I shot him!” Chapman can be heard shouting on the 911 recording.
A dispatcher immediately alerted officers that a person had been shot inside the home, and Chapman opened his front door for them.
Chapman was home alone.
While talking to police that night, Chapman kept questioning how it happened and broke down because he “had just taken a life.”
“I don’t care if it’s justified, I feel horrible,” Chapman said, according to police reports.
Laboratory results determined that Yeates’ blood-alcohol level was 0.32 percent, four times the legal limit to drive in Washington.
The autopsy showed the bullet entered his chest “in a downward trajectory,” which Sant said is consistent with a person who might be in a slightly hunched position as if they’re lunging forward.
Yeates was a safety and health specialist at the Hanford tank farm contractor, Washington River Protection Solutions.
He had been out drinking with his girlfriend and co-workers that night, but his whereabouts are unknown in the 1 1/2 hours leading up to the shooting.
He was last seen at 12:42 a.m. walking from The Dugout Bar & Grill on Burden Boulevard, and was believed to be headed toward a friend’s nearby home, where he knew the garage keypad code to get inside.
Sant noted that Yeates’ friend, Robert Plemmons, lives in a two-story home several blocks away on St. Paul Court, while Chapman has a single-story home.
“We don’t know exactly what happened after (Yeates) left The Dugout,” Sant told the Herald. “We don’t know what was going on, if the alcohol concentration in his blood was increasing.”
“What seems to be clear is that people who are intoxicated get disoriented, and (Chapman’s house) wasn’t even close,” he added.
Chapman and Yeates’ friend don’t live in the same neighborhood, and Yeates would have taken a different street off Burden to get to Chapman’s home.
“It wasn’t like it was a wrong intersection, it was just a completely wrong everything,” Sant said. “And the only thing that makes sense is the intoxication level, in terms of explaining.”
Sant said he met with Yeates’ family earlier this month to explain his decision before releasing it to the media.
Carol Ann Yeates of Quincy gave the prosecutor an honest answer that “no matter what the decision is, nothing is going to bring her son back,” he said.
Sant described this as a “sad situation all around,” but added that it frustrates him because it’s another case in the community affected by alcohol.
“Unfortunately, this is the second fatal tragedy in two years where extremely intoxicated individuals unlawfully entered the homes of strangers, resulting in shooting deaths by the homeowners,” Sant said.
He said people do not equate alcohol to a drug, even though it is the most easily accessible and abused.
On Feb. 14, 2014, Stephan S. Aceves made it into the entryway of a Pasco home when he was shot four times in the hand, chest and head. He had pounded on the front door before forcing his way inside at about 2:30 a.m.
Lab tests showed Aceves, 28, had a blood-alcohol level of 0.35 percent at the time.
Aceves reportedly had been drinking at a relative’s house the night of the incident, went outside and may have mistook the home of Rudy Ontiveros Jr. for his stepbrother’s home around the corner.
In that case, Sant announced about five weeks later that Ontiveros was scared for his life and was within his rights when he used his 9mm pistol to shoot Aceves.
Ontiveros’ fiancée and four small children also were home.
Sant explained Friday that Yeates’ investigation took more time to close, in part, because of scheduling issues with the family.
But he admitted that the bigger issue was the police department and his office was busy this summer with other investigations and cases.
“Usually we try to get those things wrapped up a lot sooner,” he said.