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Attorneys offer conflicting details in shooting death of Black Diamond man

Editor's note: The following was written by Roger Harnack, editor/publisher of the Omak-Okanogan County Chronicle and reprinted with the newspaper's permission.

By Roger Harnack

TWISP, WASH. – An award-winning Seattle city engineer is facing possible charges of second-degree murder and reckless endangerment in the July 17 shooting death of a Black Diamond man.

Kino Michael Gomez, 57, of Seattle, appeared in court July 20 after being arrested for fatally shooting Tom Pfaeffle, 49, of Black Diamond.

The men, who were staying next door to each other at Blue Spruce Motel on the Methow Valley Highway, apparently did not know each other, police said.

In court, defense attorney Michael Haas called the fatal shooting a “seriously horrible” accident lacking grounds for a murder charge.

Laying out the details, Haas told Okanogan Superior Court Judge David Edwards that Pfaeffle’s death was the result of a mistake by the victim, who woke Gomez from a deep sleep.

According to Haas, Gomez was sleeping in Room 7 when Pfaeffle accidentally tried to enter the wrong hotel room at about 10:40 p.m. Police reports said Pfaeffle and his wife had just checked into Room 8.

Gomez, who was sleeping with two 40-caliber Glock handguns, awoke and thought he saw someone coming in the motel room door and began shooting in self defense, his attorney said.

“There was no damage to the door,” Haas said, noting Gomez contends his motel room door was open at the time Pfaeffle was shot.

Haas’ comments followed a probable cause presentation by Prosecuting Attorney Karl Sloan, who said the door was not open.

In fact, Sloan said, Gomez had wedged a chair under the door handle “like in the movies” to prevent it from being opened.

Sloan said Gomez awoke when Pfaeffle tried his key in the room door.

“The evidence shows the door was not opened,” Sloan said.

Gomez began shooting wildly, with one shot passing through the door, the fatal shot through the door jam and a third round passing through a wall into the adjacent Room 6 of the motel, he said.

Nobody else was injured, although the third bullet did shatter a window and come to rest on the bed next to the guest staying in Room 6.

According to police reports, officers arriving at the scene of the shooting found Pfaeffle – a renowned sound engineer who helped shape the music of Nirvana, Heart, Aerosmith and numerous other bands – fatally wounded and bleeding behind a car in the parking lot. Police found Gomez barricaded in his room.

Police Chief Rick Balam coaxed him out and Gomez surrendered without incident, a report said.

The two Glock handguns were confiscated, as was an AR-15 assault rifle. The AR-15 had not been fired.

According to Sloan, the erratic firing of three bullets meets the criteria for a second-degree murder charge, which requires “intent to cause death without premeditation.”

Sloan went on to suggest the prosecution may even seek a first-degree murder conviction because of the “extreme indifference in multiple shooting.”

After hearing the arguments, Judge Edwards found evidence existed that a crime had been committed.

“There may be defense to these charges, but there is probable cause,” he said.

Edwards noted that Gomez is not the typical defendant in a murder case and rejected the prosecution’s request to set bail at $500,000.

In requesting a $50,000 bail, defense attorney called Sloan’s request “absolutely absurd.”

Haas said his client is an “extremely responsible person” and senior engineer with King County, having spent more than 18 years on the job and won several awards.

Edwards, who set bail at $100,000, agreed.

“It seems that Mr. Gomez is a fairly responsible person to be sitting in that seat,” he said. “However, someone is dead.”

Pfaeffle, who died at Mid-Valley Hospital in Omak two hours after being shot, is well-known in the music industry.

He owned and operated his own recording studio, The Tank Studio, and was also an Art Institute of Seattle instructor.

According to his Web site, www.thetankstudio.com, during his 30 years in the music business, Pfaeffle worked with a number of top bands including Heart, Nirvana, Aerosmtih, The Black Crowes, Great White, Queensryche, Scorpions, UB40, Alice Cooper, Rodney Crowell, B.B. King and others.

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