TACOMA, WA – Today the Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office accepted a plea agreement from Sergio Jesus Suarez, 36. Suarez pleaded guilty to one count of manslaughter in the second degree while armed with a deadly weapon. Suarez shot and killed Dustin Reed Kopp, 32, with a BB gun last October.
“This death was a freakish result from a BB,” said Prosecutor Mark Lindquist. “BB guns are not generally thought of as deadly weapons but they can be.”
On October 18, 2016, Tacoma police responded to a report of a body on a steep embankment near the Highway 16 overpass over South Cedar Street. The body was later identified as Dustin Kopp.
The Medical Examiner determined Kopp died from a single BB that entered his chest and struck his heart.
Detectives interviewed several homeless people who lived in the area where the body was found and learned that Mr. Kopp lived under the SR-16 overpass. One of those witnesses, Christopher Brian Barton, told officers that on the evening of October 17, he left his backpack and personal items with Mr. Kopp while he went to the nearby Walmart to get something to eat. He returned to Mr. Kopp’s encampment and saw that his property was missing. Mr. Kopp told Mr. Barton that Suarez, who is also homeless, had taken his property.
When Mr. Barton confronted Saurez, Saurez shot Mr. Barton with a BB gun. Mr. Barton ran away and eventually fell asleep for the night.
When he woke, Mr. Barton went looking for Mr. Kopp, but could not find him. Mr. Barton told detectives that he had heard Mr. Kopp was dead and had been killed with a BB gun.
Mr. Barton told detectives he too had been shot with a BB gun and led police to Saurez’s encampment. When officers arrived at Saurez’s tent they saw a BB gun and a jar of BBs.
In an interview with detectives, Saurez admitted having a confrontation with Mr. Barton and said during the confrontation he shot Mr. Kopp in the chest with the BB gun.
Saurez was originally charged with Murder in the second degree. As part of the Plea agreement he was sentenced to 33 months in prison.