Defendant in Pierce County Shooting That Injured Baby Shot Nearly Two Dozen Bullets, Charges Say


A 40-year-old Lakewood man accused of shooting into his neighbor's apartment Friday in Lakewood, injuring a baby boy, fired at least 22 times, according to charging documents.

Earnest Lee Hamilton was charged in Pierce County Superior Court with three counts of first-degree assault, first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm and fourth-degree assault.

Pleas of not guilty were entered on Hamilton's behalf at arraignment Monday afternoon, and Commissioner Craig Adams set bail at $750,000.

Hamilton has prior felony convictions dating from 2000 to 2016 in California for offenses including robbery and possession, according to court records. He was arrested in Texas in 2021 for allegedly possessing a firearm.

The shooting occurred at a mixed-use housing development at 8956 Gravelly Lake Drive. The complex is overseen by Living Access Support Alliance, a homeless services nonprofit that offers emergency shelter, low-income housing and permanent supportive housing for people who are chronically homeless. Charging documents indicate Hamilton had been a resident there for at least a year.

A case manager who answered the phone at the nonprofit Monday said he couldn't comment on the shooting and directed inquiries to the Lakewood Police Department.

According to the documents, a sitter was looking after two babies, ages 3 months and 18 months, when Hamilton — a neighbor in an adjacent apartment — fired five rifle shots into the front door and 17 more into an exterior wall. Records state fragments of the bullets struck the younger child while he sat in a play swing. His injuries weren't life-threatening, but prosecutors wrote in the documents that his parents reported one fragment was still in his head.

A motive has not been identified, Lakewood police said in a press release issued Saturday. In interviews with detectives, Hamilton allegedly denied being involved in the shooting.

After obtaining a search warrant, police found a Wilson Combat rifle with a round chambered in it behind a couch in Hamilton's living room. An ammunition magazine loaded with four .223-caliber bullets was found nearby. Records state the rounds were consistent with shell casings found outside the victims' apartment.

Police noted that after Hamilton was arrested, he appeared paranoid and was either having mental health issues or was on drugs, records state. Officers reported he was sweating and making nonsensical statements, and he was restrained to keep him from continuing to hit his head on a partition.

The man also allegedly told detectives that he believed he was being watched by his neighbors and that he thought his life was in danger. According to the probable cause document, he said he had heard neighbors on both sides of his apartment "cocking guns."

Lakewood police respond for report of 'active shooter'

Police responded to the housing complex at about 5:40 p.m. for a report of an active shooter, according to the declaration for determination of probable cause. Officers reportedly heard gunshots and saw many residents exiting the building's west entrance. People told police the shooter was inside.

Officers systematically cleared the building, but a gunman wasn't located. Records state he was driven away by another apartment resident. Surveillance video allegedly showed him leave about 10 minutes after the shooting. Prosecutors wrote in charging papers that no other possible suspects were seen fleeing the building.

Hamilton was arrested later that night in an unrelated incident. According to the probable cause document, his girlfriend called to report he had punched her and threatened to kill her at an apartment complex east of Lakewood, several miles from the shooting.

Police went to the apartment, where 911 dispatchers got Hamilton on the phone, records state. He allegedly said he wanted to commit a crime so he could go to jail. He eventually stepped out of an apartment and surrendered to police.