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Kent man pleads not guilty to murder charge in Auburn shooting
A Kent man pleaded not guilty Thursday to second-degree murder and with being armed with a handgun while allegedly shooting to death 48-year-old Thomas J. Bennett Sr. of Auburn in the parking lot of an Auburn grocery store March 30.
Clad in a red jail jumpsuit, Aenoy Phasay, 28, said nothing as his attorney, John Ostermann, entered not guilty pleas to both charges during his arraignment at the Norm Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent, where he is being held. Superior Court Judge Mary Roberts granted a prosecution request that Phasay have no contact with Bennett Sr.'s wife or with his son, Thomas Bennett Jr.
No trial date has been set.
Phasay's Facebook page lists him as the owner of Ancient Temple Tattoo in Kent.
According to charging papers, Phasay shot Bennett Sr., to death in front of Bennett's son during a meeting in the parking lot of the Top Foods at 1702 Auburn Way N., a meeting set up to resolve some long-running differences. According to charging papers, Phasay has a child with Bennett Jr.'s older half-sister.
Auburn Police Detective Michael Jordan offered the following account of events in charging papers:
Bennett Jr. called 911 at 3:01 a.m. to report that his father had been shot. A second caller reported hearing three gunshots from the east side of the lot. The responding police officer found the mortally-wounded man lying on the ground just outside the open driver's side door of a silver Land Rover, one foot still inside the vehicle.
The officer performed CPR until medics arrived, but 15 minutes later Bennett Sr. was pronounced dead at the scene.
Nearby, officers found three spent shell casings and three unspent cartridges. Bennett Jr. identified the shooter as Phasay.
Bennett Jr. told police that he had accompanied his father that morning to support him. According to charging papers, Bennett Sr. had asked Phasay to sit in the back seat, but the younger man refused, and the two argued. Bennett Jr. told police that his father got out of the driver's seat, but that he, Bennett Jr., stayed in the car. Bennett Jr. told police that the two men got into a fight behind the car, and that he tried to stop the fight. He said that his father got back into the driver's seat of the car, but that as his father was doing so, Phasay approached and punched him in the head. At that point, court papers say, Phasay produced a black semiautomatic Glock handgun.
Bennett Jr. immediately left the car, crawled to the rear and lay down on the ground. Bennett Jr. told police that he then heard several gun shots and that after he heard the gunshots, Phasay walked around the car to where he was and pointed the handgun at him. Bennett Jr. told police that he begged Phasay not to shoot him, and that Phasay told him "don't say a word" and took off running.
Valley SWAT arrested Phasay at 9:30 that morning at his apartment in Kent.
During a post-arrest statement to detectives, Phasay initially claimed that he shot Bennett Sr. in self-defense, but allegedly later admitted that Bennett Jr. had broken up the first fight and that Bennett Sr. had returned to the driver's seat of the car.
According to charging papers, Phasay told detectives that he "might have been angry" and approached Bennett Sr. while he sat in the driver's seat of the car. Phasay admitted to then punching the older man in the face and stepping back to pull the pistol from his waistband.
Phasay allegedly told detectives that he shot Bennett two times. Phasay allegedly also told detectives that he then walked over to Bennett Jr. and told him not to "say anything."
Phasay told detectives that he then returned to his vehicle and drove to the Tacoma Narrrows Bridge, thought about jumping off, but instead threw the gun off the bridge and returned to his apartment.