Prosecuting Attorney

Posted on: May 12, 2017

Graham man charged with murder in bear spray/shooting

TACOMA, WA – Today the Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office charged Justin Jennings, 39, with one count of murder in the second degree. Jennings allegedly sprayed bear spray on J. Christopher Burton, 50, and then shot him twice during an argument over a car.

“This appears to be a minor dispute that pointlessly escalated," said Prosecutor Mark Lindquist.

On May 6, 2017, Jennings and a friend went to 15824 82nd Avenue E. in Puyallup, Washington, because the friend left his car parked at the residence a few days earlier. Several people, including Burton, lived at this residence.

According to two other residents, the friend began to argue with the Burton as to why his car was not there. When the argument became physical, Jennings pulled out a can of bear spray and sprayed the Burton. Burton began throwing things at Jennings, who then pulled out a semi-automatic handgun and fired it twice at Burton, striking him both times in the chest. Jennings and his friend then left the area. Medical aid responded, but Burton was pronounced dead at the scene.

Both Jennings and his friend were known to the residents who witnessed the shooting. One of the witnesses identified both men from photo montages.

Jennings was located on May 7, 2017, when the vehicle in which he was a passenger was stopped for attempting to elude a Pierce County Sheriff’s vehicle.  The arresting deputy recognized Jennings and knew he was wanted in connection with a homicide investigation. Jennings had a hand injury at the time of arrest. He was taken to the hospital where he was admitted due to a serious infection. He was booked into the Pierce County Jail Late Thursday.

Bail was set at $1,000,000.00.

Charges are only allegations and a person is presumed innocent unless he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

For more information, please contact James Lynch at (253) 798-6265, jlynch@co.pierce.wa.us

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