A suspect in the beating of WSU instructor David Warner made his first appearance in court Thursday for an assault charge stemming from the March 30 attack that sent Warner to the hospital.
Joshua Nantz, 23, faces a first-degree assault charge from the incident outside a Pullman bar on March 30. He is one of three suspects accused of hitting Dr. David Warner, who is continuing his recovery at Sacred Heart Medical Center.
Family members said Thursday morning Warner is conscious and alert. He has been upgraded to serious condition.
Meanwhile, at his first appearance in Whitman County Superior Court, Nantz, who does not have a criminal history and who his attorney said isn't a flight risk, was released on his own recognizance.
Documents state at one point all of the suspects confronted Warner and his friend. Warner was trying to diffuse the situation when he was punched and tackled by the suspects. The beating sent him to the hospital, where he has remained in critical condition with serious head injuries until Thursday, when his condition was upgraded to serious.
Shawn Lamebull, one of Warner's friends who was not involved in the incident, said the judge's decision to release Nantz was understandable from a legal standpoint, but disappointing overall.
"It isn't satisfying at all for the sense of justice I think the community is looking for after a week and a half of no one being taken into custody at all," he said.
Court documents said during the altercation Warner hit the ground so hard he required emergency surgery. A four by six inch chunk of his skull had to be removed at the hospital. As a result of his injuries, doctors think Warner may suffer a severe mental handicap.