"Substantial leads" in pursuit of mall shooting suspect
Tukwila police say they have "substantial leads," including surveillance tapes and eyewitness accounts, in Saturday's fatal shooting death of a 16-year-old teen at Westfield Southcenter Mall. They expect to make an arrest soon.
Seattle Times staff reporters
Tukwila police say they have "substantial leads," including surveillance tapes and eyewitness accounts, in Saturday's fatal shooting death of a 16-year-old teen at Westfield Southcenter Mall.
Police expect to make an arrest soon, according to spokesman Mike Murphy.
Officers continue to search for the gunman who killed 16-year-old Daiquan Jones and wounded another teen at the mall. Jones had just been released from one of the state's most-secure juvenile lockups and had a long criminal record.
While Murphy was reluctant to categorize the shootings as gang-related, he said the victims and the shooter flashed gang signs and engaged in "antagonizing behavior."
Police locked down the mall and searched unsuccessfully for the gunman, a black male in his late teens or early 20s, of average build, about 5 feet 6 inches tall and 145 pounds. He was thought to be wearing a black jumpsuit with red piping.
Only one weapon was fired in the shooting, and investigators found no evidence that anyone else who was involved had a gun, Murphy said.
The wounded teen, Jermaine McGowan, 15, was upgraded Sunday to satisfactory condition at Harborview Medical Center.
King County court records show that McGowan was charged earlier this year with robbery and had been expected to show up in court today.
Running for the exits
When the shooting began, terrified shoppers hid under tables or ran for the exits. Some jumped from the second-floor food-court balcony to the parking lot below, said Sprite Srigrarom, general manager of three restaurants at Southcenter.
Tukwila police said gang issues pose special challenges for the mall. Teenagers tend to dress alike, and "99 percent" don't get into trouble, said Murphy, the Tukwila police spokesman.
"How can you tell the difference between a kid who's getting rowdy and a kid who's there to do a shooting? You can't," he said. "Mall security can be accused of profiling if they start picking out people based on how they look."
Instead, he said, police and security guards focus on behaviors such as large groups congregating; loud and boisterous behavior; adversarial behaviors; and flashing gang signs. A shooting at the mall in March was found to be gang-related, Murphy said.
Security was heightened at the mall Sunday, with uniformed guards standing in entryways and plainclothes detectives patrolling inside. The parking lot was about two-thirds full by afternoon, and some merchants said business was slower than usual.
"A lot of customers are asking if we're OK," said Srigrarom, who was working in the second-level food court when he heard the first shot around 3:45 p.m. Saturday. When a second shot followed, he knew instantly what was happening.
"I thought, 'Not now, not here,' " he said.
Victim's criminal history
Among those shopping at the mall when the shooting occurred was Cindy Ortega, the principal of Interagency Academy of Seattle Public Schools, which oversees alternative-school sites that include Opportunity Skyway. She was there with her 28-year-old daughter and her 9-month-old child.
As it turned out, Jones was a student at Opportunity Skyway.
"He had all sorts of plans of getting his life together, and this happened," Ortega said.
Jones had served time in the past year at Green Hill in Chehalis, which houses some of the state's most serious juvenile offenders.
According to King County court records, Jones has pleaded guilty at least 13 times since 2006 to robbery, assault, residential burglary, harassment, criminal trespass and theft.
Before being sent to Green Hill, Jones had been at Opportunity Skyway for about a year, was making good progress and was striving to get a high-school degree, said Dan Richman, a teacher at the school.
He also said Jones was a good student and responded to teaching, and that's why he gladly agreed to take Jones back when a state parole official inquired about Jones returning to the school.
When Jones returned to the school about a week ago, he excitedly spoke of wanting to become a lawyer to help other young people in legal trouble, Richman said.
"He came back and he said, 'I don't want to go back there,'" Richman said. "He seemed like he had a real good attitude."
People arriving at the mall Sunday morning said they'd heard about the shooting but weren't worried about their safety. Many young teenage girls came for an early showing of the vampire movie "Twilight."
Pamela Wood, of Bellevue, accompanied four 12-year-old girls to the movie. She said she'd read about an increase in gang activity in the region but decided that the day after the shooting "might be the safest of all options." She also said the shooting appeared to be between people who knew each other and "wasn't a random act."
Jason Romano, of Enumclaw, was visiting Southcenter for the first time since the extensive remodel. He said he grew up in the Renton area and spent time at the mall as a teenager 20 years ago but stopped going because gang activity got to be "very visual."
"It wasn't a good place to go," he said about the old Southcenter Mall.
Kat Varela, 13, was at Southcenter for the early movie. She said she liked the mall and would continue shopping there.
"I do not think any less of this place because of the shooting," she said.
Howard Baker and Dale Brown stopped for lunch at Southcenter on Sunday on their way to the Seahawks football game.
Baker said a shooting could happen anywhere and wouldn't affect his plans. Brown questioned why the young men apparently had to settle their differences violently.
"Why would it come to a gun?" he said.
Staff researcher David Turim and The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Steve Miletich: 206-464-3302 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Lynn Thompson: 206-464-8305.
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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