Hearing set on forfeiture of Port Angeles murderer’s gun collection

By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — A Port Angeles man convicted of shooting his next-door neighbor three years ago this month is asking the court to release his valuable gun collection to his mother in Texas.

Bobby Jerrel “B.J.” Smith II was found guilty last October of second-degree murder for the June 2011 shooting death of Robert Fowler in Port Angeles.

Clallam County Superior Court Judge George L. Wood told Smith then that he may not own, use or possess any firearms when he sentenced the 61-year-old to 10 years, 10 months in prison in January.

Chief Criminal Deputy John Troberg filed a motion to forfeit Smith’s firearm collection to the Port Angeles Police Department two days after Smith was sentenced.

“By statute, firearms that are in possession of someone who commits a felony, in this case murder, they can be forfeited to the local law enforcement agency,” Troberg said in a Thursday interview.

“They should be, because he is convicted of class A felony.”

Port Angeles attorney Lane Wolfley filed an April 4 motion on behalf of Smith and his mother, Jeanette Smith, to return 42 firearms, ammunition and other property that was seized from Smith’s Vashon Avenue residence after the shooting.

July hearing

Wood on Thursday scheduled a July 29 hearing on the motion to forfeit the firearms.

The judge also signed an order to transport Smith from the Clallam Bay Corrections Center to the Clallam County jail so he can appear at next month’s hearing.

Fowler, 63, was shot several times with a .45-caliber pistol in Smith’s living room.

Smith, who was charged with first-degree premeditated murder, testified during the trial that he shot Fowler in self-defense after his neighbor demanded money and threatened to cut his throat with a hunting knife and harm his daughter.

A Clallam County jury rejected the self-defense argument but convicted Smith of the lesser offence.

Second-degree murder is without premeditation.

Rare editions

Some of the firearms in Smith’s collection are rare-edition tributes to the D-Day invasion, Pearl Harbor, Texas Rangers and the U.S. Navy. Smith served in the Navy on a nuclear submarine.

“The police have been anxiously drooling over my priceless, irreplaceable, museum quality, American firearm collection I’ve spent over 40 years accumulating,” Smith wrote in a prison letter filed in Superior Court.

“Many have never been fired and only touched with white cotton gloves. One of them, only 10 were ever made.”

In response to Troberg’s motion to forfeit the firearms, defense attorney Karen Unger of Port Angeles wrote that only one weapon was used in the crime for which Smith was convicted and that no other weapon was displayed or used.

Smith had no prior convictions, Unger wrote in an April 28 court filing, before the “isolated and extremely unfortunate” incident June 20, 2011.

“Mr. Smith has invested significant funds over the years, and there is no legal basis to believe that Mr. Smith should be denied the value of this collection,” Unger wrote.

“Given the fact that he has a child with significant disabilities that he needs to provide for, even while in prison, the court should use its discretion and deny the state’s motion to forfeit all of his collection.

“These guns can be delivered to Mr. Smith’s mother in Texas, who is permitted to possess firearms, and she can either retain these guns or pass on to Mr. Smith’s daughter, or sell them as she sees fit.”

Smith received credit for the 27 months he served in jail prior to being sentenced.

The sentence was appealed to the state Division 2 Court of Appeals in Tacoma.

Nancy Collins of the Seattle-based Washington Appellate Project will represent Smith on appeal at public expense.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: June 05. 2014 5:57PM
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