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Police seek manslaughter charge in Hampton Greens fire | Investigators say hash oil operation caused explosion, blaze that resulted in Nan Campbell's death
Bellevue Police are asking the King County Prosecutor to charge a 31-year-old marijuana dispensary operator with second-degree manslaughter following an explosion and fire at the Hampton Greens apartment complex last November that resulted in the death of well-known Bellevue resident Nan Campbell. The explosion was determined to have been caused by a hash oil manufacturing operation he is alleged to have started in a nearby apartment unit in which he was also staying.
Residents at the Hampton Greens apartments awoke early Nov. 5 to the sound of an explosion that shook the complex and nearby businesses and residences, causing a fire that ripped through the KK building at 4505 148th Ave. N.E.
According to police and fire reports examined by the Bellevue Reporter through a public records request, David R. Schultz is alleged to have caused the explosion inside one of the apartments when butane gas being used to produce hash oil was ignited. The explosion and subsequent fire caused $1.5 million in damage and the loss of $500,000 in belongings.
Schultz was staying at the apartment with friends, Jesse Kaplan and Daniel Strycharske, both former Microsoft employees, and allegedly making hash oil in the living room, using a butane "shooting" method.
They were among seven people hospitalized that day. Schultz was found by emergency responders in the back seat of his car with second-degree burns. Reports state Schultz gave conflicting statements as to where he was at the time of the explosion, at one time being outside the apartment unit and sleeping on the couch in another. Schultz reportedly has a history of schizophrenia. Kaplan reported waking up to the roof collapsing, escaping through a wall.
Campbell, 87, told responders she tripped and fell while escaping the blaze, hurting her hip; a Kirkland firefighter noted burn marks on her robe. She died in the hospital on Nov. 19, 2013. The medical examiner's office determined the cause of death was aspiration pneumonia and urinary tract infection due to prolonged hospitalization and immobility due to pelvic fracture with hematoma. She was elected Bellevue's first female mayor in 1988 after serving two terms on the City Council.
Schultz is alleged to have denied using the butane method of making hash oil, preferring isopropyl alcohol instead. Eight exploded cans of butane were recorded by investigators being found in the parking lot and shrubs around the apartment. Strycharske allegedly admitted to investigators that Schultz was "shooting" butane, using tubes and glass found inside their apartment, and that it could take up to five cans to do the job. Undamaged butane cans were also found.
Explosions caused by amateur hash oil manufacturing in residential neighborhoods has been on the rise across the state over the past year. It reportedly caused another explosion in Seattle's Lake City neighborhood in early March, among others around King County.
The criminal investigation into the Hampton Greens apartment complex fire was conducted with the assistance of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
Police alerted about operation before explosion
According to police documents, an officer responded to the apartment complex Schultz was allegedly using to produce hash oil on Oct. 17, 2013 — three weeks before the explosion. A construction worker reported speaking to a man he witnessed assembling parts for what he said was a device for making hash oil for his dispensary.
The construction worker notified the Hampton Greens maintenance supervisor, who allegedly told the tenants to bring a compressor inside the apartment and off the deck and the complex manager later called police to check on the allegations.
Documents state the officer went to the apartment and cautioned the occupants that making hash oil would be a violation of the lease, which was reportedly only held by one of the men there.
There appears to be a gray area in the law regarding making hash oil in a residence, which Councilmember Jennifer Robertson said during Monday's council meeting should be banned under an ordinance being drafted ahead of recreational marijuana sales in Bellevue. The council also requested Monday that the ordinance be brought to them as soon as possible.
The Washington Legislature in March passed a bill allowing the sales of marijuana concentrates at licensed pot stores. According to the Washington State Liquor Control Board, the sale of recreational marijuana could start by July.
The Bellevue City Council is also considering whether to ban marijuana businesses in the city based on an opinion by Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who states local governments have the power to do so and also regulate such business in their jurisdictions.
Robertson has stated she intends on supporting the will of Bellevue voters, who voted to approve I-502 by 59 percent in 2012.
Robertson said in a phone interview with the Reporter on Tuesday the city should regulate hash oil, which is extremely dangerous to manufacture using butane, considering there are other methods for extraction.
"My understanding as a council member, not as a lawyer, is that the state does not regulate the home processing of marijuana for those with medical marijuana cards," said Robertson. "… I don't think the ordinance will keep medical patients from having access to their medicine. It really is about preventing fires, like what happened at Hampton Greens."