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Tacoma teenager gets 45 years for shooting three people, one fatally

Post by Adam Lynn / The News Tribune on Oct. 29, 2010 at 5:05 pm |
October 29, 2010 5:05 pm

Phillip K. Otto was not yet 16 when he shot three people, one of them fatally, within an eight-day period of 2008.

This afternoon, Otto learned his punishment: 45 years, 10 months in prison.

It wasn’t nearly enough for relatives and friends of Joshua Gatbunton, who died Sept. 3 after Otto shot him in the head during an attempted robbery.

“I wish he could get life in prison,” said Gatbunton’s mother, Kim. “We are living a life sentence without our loved one.”

Otto, 18, pleaded guilty last month to first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder in two shootings that injured two men and killed Gatbunton, a graduate of Mount Tahoma High School who was attending St. Martin’s University in Lacey at the time of his death.

On Aug. 26, Otto shot a man near Larchmont Elementary School while trying to rob him of cash and marijuana. The victim suffered serious injuries but survived.

A little more than a week later Otto and another man, intent on committing another robbery, knocked on the door of an apartment where Gatbunton was staying with a friend.

Gatbunton, 20, answered the door. Otto shot him. He then shot Gatbunton’s friend, badly wounding him.

“It’s hard to think of something more senseless, more callous, more cruelly indifferent,” Pierce County Superior Court Judge Ronald Culpepper said before handing down the sentence. “Maybe Mr. Otto can’t feel sorry for anybody, is completely lacking in empathy and sympathy. I don’t know.”

Otto’s attorney, Philip Thornton, said his client suffers mental illness that impairs his ability to make good decisions.

“No one can make sense of what happened at these events,” Thornton said. “Mr. Otto can’t make sense of it.”

Otto declined the chance to speak on his own behalf.

Also today, Culpepper sentenced Kris Cunanan, 20, to four years in prison for helping to set up the Larchmont Elementary School robbery.

In all, seven young men were convicted in the two incidents and sentenced to prison.

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