Killer who shot Seattle man in front of his kids asks for leniency

SEATTLE -- Having accidentally slain the Seattle father in front of his children, Justin Ferrari's killer now says he deserves a bit of a break.

Caught only after an intensive investigation, Andrew Patterson now says he was attempting to scare off another man when he accidentally shot Ferrari in Seattle's Central District.

Opening fire on May 24, 2012, Patterson, now 21, missed his target - a man who'd called him a "bitch" - but hit Ferrari, 42, as the father of two drove past. Patterson's bullet hit Ferrari in the head, ending his life in front of his parents and his two young children.

Arrested months after the shooting, Patterson pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in July. Prosecutors plan to ask King County Judge Michael Hayden to deliver a 19-year prison sentence on Friday, while the young man's attorney appears prepared to argue his client deserves a break.

According to court papers, Patterson's public defender claims her client should instead be sentenced to 13 years in prison in part because of his age. Patterson also now claims to be remorseful, though he also says he fired in self-defense.

Writing the court, Senior Deputy Prosecutor Scott O'Toole noted Patterson concocted a false alibi, lied to police and attempted to have others tamper with witnesses. Patterson has also refused to say what became of the pistol used to kill Ferrari.

"Based on the evidence, it is much more likely that the defendant is remorseful for the ramification to himself of what he has done," O'Toole said in court papers. "At the time of his arrest and interview with detectives the defendant lied repeatedly, denied responsibility and showed no remorse."

A father himself, Patterson started shooting after a mentally ill man disrespected him and other members of a minor street gang. The intended target told detectives he berated Patterson after the younger man tried to bum a cigarette from him; he was running away when Patterson opened fire.

Ferrari was driving with his family near the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Way and East Cherry Street when Patterson started shooting. Ferrari, a senior software development engineer at real estate website, was killed as his children, then 5 and 7, looked on from the back of the family's Volkswagen van.

Arriving two minutes after the shooting, the first officer on the scene found Ferrari fatally wounded in the van and his distraught mother in the street. His children were still strapped into their child seats; their dying father was still behind the wheel.

Patterson was long gone.

Seattle detectives ultimately identified Patterson as the shooter after reviewing surveillance video from a bus as well as data from a stolen ORCA transit pass. Witnesses to the shooting then confirmed the shooter was the man pictured in the bus surveillance video, and a gang unit detective found a booking photo of Patterson.

Gang detectives reported that members of a minor street gang called "31 RACKS" - an acronym, RACKS stands for "Running After Cash Killin' Suckaz," while 31 apparently stands for 31st Avenue South - had recently taken to hanging out at the corner. Gang detectives previously arrested several purported members of the gang for weapons violations.

King County prosecutor Dan Satterberg previously described Ferrari's death as the "random, tragic and senseless" result of Patterson's decision to use a gun during a petty argument.

"Every person in the neighborhood was a potential victim of his irrational and erratic use of deadly force," Satterberg added.

A high school dropout born in Auburn, Patterson was bouncing between his girlfriend's home and his parents' home when the shooting occurred.

In statements to the court on his behalf, Patterson attempted to claim he was defending himself when he started shooting. Patterson, in that version of events, was attempting to frighten off the other man.

Writing the court on Patterson's behalf, psychologist Paul Spizman contended that Patterson's exposure to violence as a child left him with post-traumatic stress disorder and ill-equipped to deal with stressful situations.

"On the day of the incident, he was harassed by a man that Mr. Patterson knew could be dangerous, clearly feeling threatened and in harm's way," Spizman said in a statement to the court. "In sum, any actions he engaged in that day would have been severely compromised due to his impaired ability to make decisions."

While Patterson claims the shooting stemmed from stress and fear, the prosecutor ascribes it to petulance - Patterson didn't like that he man he shot at was making fun of his little street gang.

O'Toole said Patterson knew what he was doing, and knew that it was wrong. That's why he ran, O'Toole told the court, and that's why he hid.

Patterson remains jailed pending a sentencing hearing scheduled for Friday morning.