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Originally published October 27, 2010 at 10:08 AM | Page modified October 28, 2010 at 9:04 PM

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Suspect in fatal shooting downtown held in lieu of $2.5M bail

A 27-year-old Lynnwood man accused of fatally shooting another man Tuesday in downtown Seattle has been ordered held in lieu of $2.5 million bail. He had been convicted of assault for a home invasion in 2005.

Seattle Times staff reporter

About 15 minutes before he was gunned down in a busy Seattle intersection on Tuesday, Michael Yohannes called his sister because he had just been in a heated argument with another man.

Yohannes, 31, was upset, but he wasn't too descriptive about what was going on, she said. He was downtown waiting for his girlfriend to finish her shift at work, Helen Yohannes said.

When Helen Yohannes tuned in to the local news after getting off the phone, she learned there had been a shooting at Second Avenue and Pike Street. She said that she feared her brother had been slain.

Her fears were confirmed when another sister soon heard from Yohannes' girlfriend that he had been killed, a family friend said.

Seattle police say that surveillance videos from businesses located near the shooting scene show Tomas Afeworki, 27, walking up to Yohannes at 4:42 p.m. and shooting him in the head. When Yohannes collapsed on the pavement, Afeworki fled, police said. He was arrested a short time later inside Zaina, a nearby restaurant.

Afeworki, of Lynnwood, was ordered Wednesday to remain at the King County Jail in lieu of $2.5 million bail for investigation of homicide. Prosecutors have until Friday to charge him in King County Superior Court.

King County prosecutors asked District Court Judge Eileen Kato to hold Afeworki in lieu of $5 million bail because of the violence of the crime, and because the shooting happened in the middle of a busy downtown street at rush hour. Defense attorney Christopher Swaby requested $1 million bail.

Even if Afeworki is able to post bail, he will not be released because he is accused of violating his state Department of Corrections (DOC) probation for being arrested in connection with the shooting. Afeworki has been under DOC supervision for a second-degree-assault conviction, according to law-enforcement officials.

He had been reporting regularly to his community-corrections officer and wasn't due to report again until next Wednesday.

A motive for the shooting has not been released by police. Investigators say they are looking into whether it could be gang-related. It also wasn't immediately known if the phone call Yohannes made to his sister had anything to do with the shooting.

According to the King County Medical Examiner's Office, Yohannes died of a gunshot wound to the head.

"I love him; this just hurts me," said a family friend who would identify herself only as Debbie, out of concern for her safety. "He had the best heart in the world. He would do anything for you, especially to keep a smile on your face."

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Yohannes moved to the Seattle area after fleeing Eritrea as a child. Growing up here, he ran into trouble with drugs and crime and even served time in prison, Debbie said on Wednesday. Yohannes has two young sons and was making an effort to be there for them, she said.

"He was trying to get back on track," Debbie said.

Afeworki was convicted of burglary, three counts of unlawful imprisonment and three counts of misdemeanor assault by a Snohomish County jury in September 2005. He was sentenced to six years and three months in prison for forcing his way into a Lynnwood apartment where he and another man held three women at gunpoint and demanded drugs or money.

The men erroneously believed that the women were drug dealers but the women didn't have drugs or money, Snohomish County prosecutors said. One of the women picked up a telephone and told the men she was calling someone who did have drugs and money, but she actually called 911.

Afeworki also has convictions in King County for drug possession, second-degree burglary and illegal possession of a firearm.

According to charging paperwork filed in King County Superior Court in a separate case, Afeworki forced his way into a friend's apartment and demanded money at gunpoint. The woman told Afeworki she would pay him within several days and he left the apartment. Afeworki pleaded guilty in 2005 to second-degree burglary and illegal firearms possession, in the case, court filings said.

Seattle Times news researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this report. Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this report.

Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or jensullivan@seattletimes.com

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