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Originally published July 23, 2011 at 8:19 PM | Page modified July 24, 2011 at 4:13 PM

12 wounded as gunfire erupts at Kent car show

At least 12 people were shot at a crowded lowrider car show in Kent on Saturday, creating chaos as cars sped from the scene and frightened spectators ran for the safety of nearby shops.

Seattle Times staff reporters

quotes Just doing the work Americans won't do..... Read more
quotes I guess it's good we have low-quality gangs around here. I mean how do you shoot 11... Read more
quotes A bunch of moron racists (they call themselves LA RAZA) fill a crowded shopping center... Read more

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At least 12 people were shot at a crowded lowrider car show in Kent on Saturday, creating chaos as cars sped from the scene and frightened spectators ran for the safety of nearby shops.

Patrons and employees in the stores and restaurants locked the doors and crouched in backrooms to escape the gunfire.

"First I heard like six shots, then they kept going," said Alejandro Lara, a witness.

He said he saw a single gunman firing from the front of the shopping center into the parking lot full of people.

The wounded didn't have life-threatening injuries, authorities said.

Police did not know Saturday evening how many shooters there were, and they were continuing to interview victims and witnesses. No arrests had been made by Saturday night.

"People were leaving as we were coming, and victims were our first priority," said Kent police Sgt. Jarod Kasner.

A fight broke out just before the shooting, which occurred at the La Plaza shopping center, Kasner said. It is in the 23200 block of Pacific Highway South, where it meets the Kent-Des Moines Road.

Nine people — seven males and two females ranging from age 14 to 32 — were taken to Harborview Medical Center with injuries to arms, legs, feet and torso.

Four were treated and released and five were admitted overnight, Harborview spokeswoman Susan Gregg said. All were in satisfactory condition.

Four others were shot, at least two of whom went to other hospitals, police said.

Kasner described a chaotic scene as cars sped away from the La Raza lowrider show after the shooting at about 4:15 p.m.

Erica Parker said she was working at a Subway shop near the car show when she and other employees heard gunshots. People started running in, she said, screaming, "He's got a gun!"

Witnesses said the La Raza car show had been going on in the parking lot during the weekend. About 50 lowrider or classic cars were on display.

Some of the car exhibitors blamed the violence on groups of young people who showed up at the party "mugging," or staring each other down.

"It was a good show, but a bad vibe," said Cesar DePale, at a small gathering of self-described "veteranos" at a nearby detailing and body shop Saturday night.

He had been at the show, flaunting dancing hydraulics on his maroon 1986 Buick.

Leo Salazar, another exhibitor, said he saw a single young gunman.

When the shots began, car owners pushed each other to the pavement for cover, said DePale. "It was real scary. I don't own a gun. I've never even heard a gunshot before. That's how mellow I am."

DePale said he's been to 10 similar shows before that were peaceful.

A poster for the event said it was a free, all-ages lowrider show sponsored by Lokos Music. Besides a car show, several music groups performed.

After the shooting, drink cans and bottles were left scattered as people rushed from the scene. Within an hour, all the cars were gone.

At Pro Nails near the scene, employee Tran Tran said she heard a couple of pops, which she thought might be gunfire or firecrackers.

Shortly after, a mother with two children went into the store, saying she had been standing right next to a gunman and was scared.

About 10 people rushed into the back restrooms of the nail shop after locking the front door, Tran said.

The owner of a nearby restaurant said an off-duty police officer had just finished a meal with his family when the shooting started.

He left to go to his car, but returned to the restaurant and told everyone to get away from the windows.

The restaurant owner, who did not want her name in the paper, said she had been intimidated throughout the weekend by the rowdy crowds at the car show. Before the shooting, she said, she saw two men fighting on a corner at the edge of the plaza.

"Hopefully, this will be a wake-up call to law enforcement," to staff the shows, said a small-business owner who identified himself as Marco M.

Police haven't confirmed yet whether the violence was gang-related, Sgt. Kasner said. They are interviewing dozens of witnesses and sorting out different stories from them, he said.

Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to call the Kent police tips line at 253-856-5808.

Seattle Times staff reporter Dominic Gates contributed

to this story.

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