Suspect charged with murder, accused of fatally beating man in wheelchair

The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office (KCPAO) filed upgraded charges on July 21 against Gabriel Vargas-Garcia, who is accused of beating a wheelchair-bound man to death at the Bellevue Transit Center earlier this month.

Vargas-Garcia, 25, was originally charged with first-degree assault and first-degree attempted murder, which are now amended to first-degree murder.

The updated charges come after the victim, 63-year-old Eric Troy Larson, passed away from his injuries on July 19 — nine days before his birthday.

Less than two days before the July 10 attack, Vargas-Garcia was released from the King County Jail due to 2019 charges, where he was sentenced for 15 months. The 2019 case was originally charged as second-degree rape. After being unable to locate a corroborating witness who was initially available when the case was filed, according to KCPAO, prosecutors argued for an enhanced sentence with a sexual assault charge.

On June 24, Vargas-Garcia was sentenced to 15 months at the King County Jail. He was also required to undergo substance abuse and mental health evaluations, while successfully completing programs for substance abuse and mental health, according to KCPAO, who mentioned there was an additional 36 months of community custody with the Department of Corrections. KCPAO also stated Vargas-Garcia was required to register as a sex offender and submit DNA to the statewide criminal database.

“Because the case was charged in 2019 and the sentencing guidelines set by state lawmakers – even for the enhanced sentence in the sexual assault case – was 12 to 15 months, Vargas-Garcia served his time after the 15 months sentence and was released by the separate King County Jail staff in early July 2022,” said Casey McNerthney of KCPAO in an email.

By July 10, Vargas-Garcia was rearrested by the Bellevue Police Department for the assault of Larson, who sustained a serious head injury and was transported to Harborview Medical Center, according to the police report.

Traffic cameras at the intersection of 110th Avenue Northeast and Northeast 6th Street captured the entire 90-second incident, according to the police report. The video footage, according to the police report, shows Vargas-Garcia walking near and circling the area where Larson sat in his wheelchair, and without any apparent conversation, Vargas-Garcia reportedly strikes Larson on the head and neck area repeatedly with his fists.

The police report states Larson attempted to pivot his wheelchair away, but fell to the ground and Vargas-Garcia reportedly kicked his head and upper torso. According to the police report, video surveillance then allegedly shows Vargas-Garcia stomping on Larson’s head with his shoes, who then grabbed Larson’s head with his hands and smashed his skull into the ground several times.

With the updated charges following Larson’s death, KCPAO asked the judge to raise bail from $750,000 to $5 million, although the judge set the bail at $1 million; Vargas-Garcia remains in King County Jail on that bond.

Vargas-Garcia’s arraignment hearing is delayed until later in August while he undergoes a competency evaluation at the request of the defense counsel, according to KCPAO.

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Source: Bellevue Reporter