Kent slaying suspect alleges racial slurs led to shooting
The Burien man accused of killing two men at a Kent gas station on Wednesday told police he opened fire after a group of construction workers directed racial slurs at him and a friend, according to a court document.
Seattle Times staff reporters
The Burien man accused of killing two employees at a Kent gas station Wednesday told police he opened fire after a group of construction workers directed racial slurs at him and a friend, according to a court document released Thursday.
Leland D. Russell, 29, who is being held for investigation of two counts of first-degree homicide, was captured on surveillance video at the combination Shell gas station and Wendy’s restaurant shooting the victims at close range, a statement of probable cause alleges.
Russell told investigators that construction workers at the gas station had directed racial slurs at him and the friend, according to the affidavit, which outlines the police case. The two station employees intervened.
Russell, who identified his friend only as “Sac,” said that if he hadn’t shot the men, his friend’s family would have killed him for failing to stand up for him, police wrote in the affidavit.
Russell said the fight was over “disrespect,” police said.
The affidavit does not indicate what was said to the two men, but Russell is described in the document as Hispanic and his companion described as black. There was no description of the construction workers Russell claims uttered the racial slurs.
The affidavit also does not mention where the construction workers were employed, but there was a construction crew working across the street from the gas station Wednesday.
The confrontation was allegedly sparked after Russell parked a black Cadillac at gas pumps in a haphazard manner, blocking access to other cars.
On Thursday, King County District Court Judge Arthur Chapman ordered Russell held in lieu of $2 million bail. Russell waived his right to appear at the bail hearing in the King County Jail courtroom.
“Clearly, the defendant has a callous disregard for human life,” Deputy Prosecutor TinaMarie Masters said in her argument for the high bail. Prosecutors say their deadline to file felony charges is Monday.
The King County Medical Examiner’s Office identified David Christianson, 52, as one of the two victims. The owner of the gas station, Ariff Gulamani, identified the second victim as Carlos Gonzalez.
Kent police, in the probable-cause document, describe Russell as a “self-admitted gang member” who owns multiple firearms.
“Russell is a danger to the public and all that are in contact with him,” Detective Melanie Frazier wrote in the report.
The public defender representing Russell did not argue against the $2 million bail during Thursday’s hearing.
Kent police Cmdr. Jarod Kasner said Thursday that detectives have identified, and are “actively seeking,” a second suspect, but that no arrest has been made. That man is presumably Russell’s friend.
Russell had previously been accused of pointing a handgun at a man after a traffic collision in 2012. During that encounter, Russell fired gunshots into the air, according to court documents.
The fatal shootings Wednesday occurred outside the Shell station and Wendy’s restaurant at 6331 S. 212th Street in Kent just after 8:30 a.m.
A witness to the shootings said the Cadillac driver — identified by police as Russell — and his passenger were blaring loud music while haphazardly parked at a gas pump. The witness said the driver was hostile with him before the shootings for no reason and opened fire after seeing his friend involved in a confrontation with the other men.
Both the Shell gas station and the Wendy’s remained closed Thursday, but employees gathered inside. Sometimes they would come outside to hug and cry with a newly arriving co-worker before leading the co-worker inside.
A growing mound of flowers was on a curb outside the business.
Gulamani, the business owner, said the second victim was a new employee but was highly regarded by his co-workers. Christianson, who had worked at the store for about 12 years, was irreplaceable, he said.
“He was outstanding,” said Gulamani. “He was a great guy, a great man and a great employee.”
A man who gave his name as Abraham said he had worked at the station under Christianson about four years ago. He described him as a kind, thoughtful man and a wonderful boss.
He said Christianson, a father of two daughters, had never worried about danger at the station even though convenience stores get all kinds of customers.
“Sometimes you get crazy people in and out. Nothing personal, but people go crazy,” Abraham said. “But Dave was not concerned about safety. This location is very busy all day long, 24 hours. Nobody knew this was going to happen.”
Fred and Jeanette Olsen said they got their gas at that station, even though the prices were a little higher, because of Christianson.
“These were good guys,” said Fred Olsen.
“A lot of people are going to miss them, “ said Jeanette Olsen. “They were some of the nicest people I have ever met. They really went out of their way to be kind.”
Javier Lopez, a friend of Christianson’s, said he had been at the store earlier Wednesday to do some translation for a new employee. He said he had his own run-in with the suspected gunman at the beginning of summer.
Lopez said the suspect, who he said seemed like he was on drugs, had pulled a gun on him in Burien. Lopez said he knows the suspect and his family.
Russell has a documented history of gun violence, according to King County Superior Court records.
In June 2012, he threatened a driver with a handgun after a traffic accident in Burien, according to the court documents.
Russell was driving a Dodge Ram pickup that rear-ended a red Jeep Cherokee as it was turning left onto South 128th Street from Ambaum Boulevard South, the documents say. When the Jeep’s driver got out to confront the other driver, Russell pulled out a black semi-automatic handgun and ordered the Jeep’s driver to “back up,” the charges said.
Russell identified himself to the Jeep’s driver and passenger before driving off, according to the charges.
The Jeep’s driver followed the Dodge to get a license-plate number. At one point, Russell turned around and drove past the Jeep. He pointed a handgun in the air and fired two shots, charging documents said.
King County prosecutors charged Russell with second-degree assault with a deadly weapon and hit-and-run. He pleaded guilty to hit-and-run and was given a 90-day suspended jail sentence and ordered to participate in 60 hours of community service.
The charging documents do not say whether Russell had a weapons permit.
In 2002, when Russell was 17, he was accused of raping a 15-year-old girl near a cabin in Index, in Snohomish County. According to court records, a jury acquitted him of second-degree rape in 2006.
Russell has prior King County Jail bookings for investigation of DUI, reckless driving, assault and drug possession, according to a law-enforcement source.