Hower's competence questioned

A Kitsap County Superior Court judge on Monday ordered the man charged with the shooting death of a local shopkeeper to be evaluated at Western State Hospital to determine his competency to stand trial.

He then denied an attempt by his defense attorney to bar jail staff from giving his client prescribed medication.

Doctors representing Kitsap Mental Health (KMH) disclosed in Judge Leila Mills’ courtroom that Wayne Brent Hower, 44, charged with first-degree murder Friday after allegedly shooting Alan R. Kono in front of P.J.’s Market last week, suffers from schizophrenia and has been taking medication for the illness for several years.

However, Hower’s defense attorney, David LaCross, first filed an order on Saturday requesting that Kitsap County Jail staff not offer his client his prescribed medication unless he was present. On Monday, however, LaCross stated that on behalf of his client he wished to revoke Hower’s consent to be offered medication.

LaCross said a psychiatrist preparing to evaluate his client requested that Hower’s medical condition remain exactly the same as when he allegedly committed the shooting, and that if his condition changed due to medical treatment, it might jeopardize his defense.

Mills denied both orders, agreeing with the testimony from representatives of both KMH and the jail, who stated that the medication Hower was prescribed was necessary and critical.

She also stated that it was the jail’s duty to offer the medication, and that it was entirely the inmate’s right to refuse the proffered medication.

At an earlier hearing on Monday, Mills signed an order to have Hower transferred to Western State Hospital within the next 48 hours.

At Hower’s first court appearance on Friday, family, friends and customers of Kono packed the courtroom. The defendant, appearing disheveled and disoriented, was restrained with handcuffs, shackles and chains while constantly under the close watch of six corrections officers when he was brought into court separate from the other defendants.

Sheriff’s spokesman Deputy Scott Wilson said the precautions were appropriate given the first-degree murder charge against Hower.

Wilson said on Friday that Hower had been placed on suicide watch since his arrest Thursday afternoon.

Almost immediately after Hower approached the bench, LaCross told Judge Sally Olsen that after speaking briefly with his client and family members, he had reason to believe the defendant was not competent to stand trial.

Hower is accused of shooting Kono in the head at approximately 1:20 p.m. on June 23.

Witness Matthew Hargis, quoted in the probable cause statement filed against Hower, said he was sitting on the porch of P.J.’s Market talking to Kono when he saw Hower take a shotgun out of his car, which was parked in front of the store, and shoot Kono in the head.

Hargis said Hower then put the gun back into his car and walked over to Kono’s body, saying to Hargis, “I’m done. My problem was with Al, not with you,” before he got back into his car and drove away.

At least two other witnesses then followed the suspect in their cars, calling 911 and leading deputies to Hower’s residence on Hilldale Road, where he was arrested 15 minutes later.

Kono, 48, was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where he later died of a gunshot wound to the head.

Kono was married with two children, and had owned and operated the market for 15 years.

According to deputies investigating the scene, Hower was recorded by a surveillance camera outside Kono’s store arriving in the parking lot about an hour before the shooting.

For nearly the entire hour he is reportedly seen waiting in his car, only entering the store once to buy cigarettes, before he is shown taking out his shotgun and firing at Kono as the witnesses describe.

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