Prosecutors charge Auburn man in Kent killing near hotel

Jacob Thiel allegedly shot Geoffrey Sherrard in dispute about stolen cellphone

A 22-year-old Auburn man faces a second-degree murder charge for allegedly shooting another man Jan. 3 in Kent near the Hawthorn Suites hotel because he believed the man had stolen his cellphone and other items.

Jacob C. Thiel is scheduled to be arraigned Jan. 22 in King County Superior Court at the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent for fatally shooting Geoffrey Ronald Sherrard, 48, of Renton. Initial reports indicated Sherrard lived in Auburn. Thiel remained Tuesday in the county jail in Kent with bail set at $1 million. He has previous convictions for reckless driving and obstructing an officer, each in 2014.

“Believing that the victim had stolen some of his property, the defendant chose to take the law into his own hands and shot and killed the victim with a gun he’d obtained just a few days prior,” wrote Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney John B. Castleton Jr. in the charging papers.

Sherrard died of a single gunshot wound to the chest, according to the King County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Kent Police responded at about 9:09 a.m. Jan. 3 to a shooting in the 6300 block of South 212th Street. Officers found Sherrard with a gunshot wound inside his car. Paramedics transported him to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where he later died.

The 28-year-old girlfriend of Sherrard was at the scene and told police that she and Sherrard had spent the night at Thiel’s apartment in Auburn. When she woke up, Sherrard was gone. He had left in his black Toyota Solara. She called him and discovered he was at the Hawthorn Suites. The girlfriend and Thiel took a bus to the hotel to find Sherrard.

They found Sherrard sitting in the driver’s seat of the two-door vehicle parked in front of the hotel. The girlfriend got into the car and Thiel came in right after her and sat on top of her, according to the police report. Sherrard yelled at Thiel to get out of the vehicle and off of Howard, according to the girlfriend. She said the two men also yelled at each other, something about a cellphone.

Sherrard and the girlfriend shoved Thiel out of the car. As soon as Thiel was out of the vehicle, he pulled out a handgun and shot Sherrard once in the chest, according to the police report.

Thiel fled on foot. At about 10:10 a.m., a K-9 unit helped find Thiel in some bushes near the hotel. Police took Thiel into custody.

Thiel told detectives the couple had stayed the night at his apartment. He said he woke up to find Sherrard gone and believed the man had taken his cellphone and several other electronic items.

Thiel told police he ran toward Sherrard’s vehicle and saw him with his cellphone. He said he exchanged words with Sherrard, who then began to reverse the car with Thiel partially inside. He said Sherrard and the girlfriend pushed him out of the car. He said he was afraid his leg might get run over, so he pulled out his gun and fired at Sherrard.

The man told detectives he ran because he had just shot someone and he was scared. Thiel tossed the gun into some bushes and later helped police recover the gun. Police searched Sherrard’s vehicle after obtaining a search warrant and found a Samsung Galaxy cellphone. They did not find any other items Sherrard had allegedly stolen from Thiel.

Court documents and the police report didn’t indicate how Sherrard and Thiel knew each other, how long they had known each other or why they stayed at Thiel’s apartment for the night. The documents also didn’t state how or where Thiel obtained his gun.

Thiel was booked four times into the King County jail between February and December last year for failure to appear on an obstruction charge. He typically spent just one day in jail but spent nearly a week in jail in late November and early December, according to jail records.

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