King County prosecutors have charged a 55-year-old Seattle man with second-degree murder, accusing him of gunning down a beloved teacher on a Belltown sidewalk on Dec. 13.
King County prosecutors allege that a 55-year-old Seattle man with a lengthy criminal history fatally shot a beloved art teacher in Belltown last month for no apparent reason.
Richard Whitaker, who also goes by the names Richard Roundtree and Snipe, has been charged with second-degree murder and first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm in connection with the death of Brent McDonald about 3 a.m. Dec. 13, charging documents say.
Whitaker and his girlfriend were arrested Friday afternoon on a Metro bus at Third Avenue and Virginia Street, about a block from where McDonald, 49, was found lying on the sidewalk weeks earlier, according to Seattle police and charging papers. McDonald had been taken to Harborview Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead from a gunshot wound to the chest.
Whitaker remains jailed in lieu of $2 million bail but is also being held without bail on a 2013 felony drug charge, jail records show.
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His 38-year-old girlfriend, who was arrested Friday for investigation of rendering criminal assistance, signed a cooperation agreement with prosecutors and is not currently facing criminal charges, say the charging documents filed in Whitaker’s case.
McDonald taught art and woodworking to low-income and immigrant middle-school children at Coyote Central, a nonprofit in the Central District.
“The defendant, without cause, provocation or apparent reason, shot and killed a man who was simply passing the defendant on a downtown Seattle sidewalk,” senior deputy prosecutor Don Raz wrote in charging papers.
Convicted four times since 1991 of delivery of cocaine, Whitaker was convicted of delivery of cocaine in 2013 but failed to show up in court when his guilty verdict was handed down, according to court records. A warrant was issued and was in effect at the time he is accused of killing McDonald, the charges say.
Given his criminal history, Whitaker faces a minimum of 30 years in prison if convicted as charged, Raz wrote.
After McDonald was killed, police released to the public video-surveillance footage from a building with cameras pointed at Third Avenue.
The footage “showed the victim approaching and passing one of the suspects on foot. That suspect then shot the victim who collapsed to the ground,” the charges say.
After the shooting, the gunman was seen getting into a Mercedes-Benz station wagon with a woman and driving off.
On Jan. 5, a woman called the Seattle Police Department’s tip line and identified herself as a friend of Whitaker’s girlfriend, charging papers say. The friend, who recognized the other woman’s Mercedes-Benz on the TV news, said the girlfriend told her she had witnessed the shooting and then had driven herself and her boyfriend from the scene, according to the charges.
The friend led detectives to the woman’s house in South Park, the charges say. She said the girlfriend claimed McDonald had been following her and flirting with her when he was shot by Whitaker, according to charging papers.
That same day, a male friend of Whitaker’s girlfriend also called police and said the girlfriend told him her boyfriend had shot someone, say the charges. He told police the girlfriend claimed Whitaker had “put a gun to her head and told her to ‘just drive,’ ” according to charging papers.
Police seized the girlfriend’s Mercedes-Benz and also served a search warrant at Whitaker’s sister’s house, which is in South Park, say the charges.
There, they found a backpack “which appeared to be the backpack worn by the shooter in the surveillance video of the murder,” charging papers say.