A Longview man was sentenced on Thursday to 25 years in prison and three years on probation for nearly killing another Longview man in an early-morning March shooting.
In a letter to the court written by the victim’s mother, Heidi Erickson, and read aloud by prosecuting attorney Sean Brittain at the Cowlitz County Jail courtroom, Erickson expressed grief and anger but also forgiveness toward the man who nearly killed her 22-year-old son Michael.
“I want him punished to the full extent of the law, but I forgive him for what he has done, and I pray he gets the help that he needs,” Erickson, 43, wrote.
Since the shooting, both she and her son have been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder, she wrote, and Michael Erickson has difficulties sleeping and being around groups of people. He has lingering pain from the shooting, which also flared up his arthritis, she wrote.
And had her son not turned to flee just as Carlson started shooting, he would likely be dead, Heidi Erickson wrote.
“I woke to my son screaming he had been shot. ... It still haunts me to this day,” Heidi Erickson wrote. “Mr. Carlson’s real intent was to kill both of us, even though he had never met me. ... There are days when all I do is cry.”
Carlson pleaded guilty on Aug. 8 to his charges, which include first-degree attempted murder and residential burglary.
“I’m sorry for my actions,” Carlson said in short remarks Thursday to presiding Superior Court Judge Michael Evans. “I’m glad that (Erickson) survived. I’m just going to miss my kids since I’m going to go away for a long time.”
In his remarks, Evans shared concern that Carlson shot Erickson with hollow point bullets, which Evans said are designed to “create as much carnage as possible.”
“(Carlson) is not safe,” Evans said. “He is not safe to be on the streets with other human beings. He needs to be put away for a long time. We can’t trust you. ... You’ve caused tremendous suffering and quite frankly, you’re quite a coward. And cowards who are dangerous need to be separated from our society.”
In an interview outside the jail after the sentencing, the family said they were satisfied with the case’s outcome. Going to trial would have “done us both in,” Heidi Erickson said.
“I think he’s getting the time he deserves,” Michael Erickson said.
“I would have liked to see more,” Heidi Erickson said, “but I was OK with 25 years.”
She said the surgeons who operated on her son were shocked that he survived. And Michael Erickson said he’s “very thankful” he survived the .45 magnum hollow point bullet.
“(Now) I’m getting more productive each day,” Michael Erickson said. “Getting more passionate about everything, a lot more caring. I just want to help people. I want to tell my story.”
Carlson’s sentence was recommended by both the prosecutor’s office and Carlson’s defense attorney, Ian Maher.
Maher said that Carlson asked him “not to negotiate” for a lighter sentence and makes no excuses for his actions.
“Now that he’s been sober for months sitting in the Cowlitz County Jail, he doesn’t have any real explanation for what transpired that night,” Maher said. “He doesn’t deny any of the facts. ... We wanted the Ericksons to get justice.”
Carlson will not see his two young children for the next couple decades: “No small punishment, but a deserved punishment,” Maher said. Carlson is a “rather simple young man” who was fueled by immaturity and drug abuse, not a sophisticated criminal, Maher said.
“Not only do we have a premeditated, planned-out attack on the victim, we also have essentially a crime spree in order to grab the tools to commit this act,” prosecuting attorney Sean Brittain said.
Carlson was arrested on March 12 after Longview officers were dispatched to a shooting in the 400 block of Quail Lane in West Longview. Heidi Erickson told dispatchers that her son Michael Erickson had been shot.
Officers found Erickson lying on the floor of his bedroom bleeding from a gunshot in his abdomen, according to police records.
Erickson told police he awoke to a curtain falling down and saw a man standing in his open bedroom window, six feet away, wearing a white plastic mask and a hood.
That man, later identified by Longview police as Carlson, pointed a stolen semiautomatic handgun through the window and fired two shots, hitting Erickson once.
According to police records, Carlson was the ex-husband of Erickson’s girlfriend and the two had met several times, but Erickson did not know why Carlson would want to shoot him.
A police search of Carlson’s phone found Facebook messages in which he appeared to brag about the shooting, according to his arrest record.
Carlson offered to take another man on a “fatty mission” to “boom boom n hit mike and his mom. Take everything and there (sic) rig and bounce. .. we tske (sic) them out ... DEAD.”
There were three other adults and a dog in the house, Heidi Erickson said, and they all could have been killed had Carlson continued attacking the family.