Chief says teens who killed innocent woman will be charged at ‘highest’ level


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By Jack Mayne

Burien’s police chief says his force and the King County Sheriff’s Office are working to make certain that the stray bullet death of a respected 51-year old worker in a chiropractic office is not forgotten, and to assure that the accused teens are “not just arrested but charged to the highest possible level for their involvement in the event.”

Burien Police Chief Ted Boe gave the Burien City Council study session Monday (Sept. 24) an update on the homicide investigation last week, (Sept, 19) in which Gabriela Reyes Dominguez, 51, was shot to death by a stray bullet from a drive-by shooting last Wednesday afternoon while working at the One Source Chiropractic office located at 15217 1st Ave South.

Two suspects were arrested on Thursday (Sept. 20), prompting Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht to reinstitute the South King County gang unit.

Sheriff notes ’senseless death’
“Her senseless death is a tragedy and my heart breaks for her family,” Johanknecht said Monday of the 51-year-old, who “found herself in the cross hairs” of an increasingly violent war between rival gangs.

Johanknecht said King County Executive Dow Constantine has earmarked just over $842,000 for the formation of a new gang unit in the 2019-2020 budget he submitted late last week to the county council.

If approved by the King County Council, the money will fund positions for a sergeant and a detective for two years, and cover startup costs and other expenses, Johanknecht said at a news conference. They’ll be focused on fighting crime but also working with parents and schools to recognize — and interfere with — gang recruitment efforts, she said.

‘Altercation’ leading to death
Boe told the Council at the study session Monday night that four 17-year old gang members were in a car on S. 152nd Street last Wednesday (Sept. 19) afternoon when they saw a 38-year-old man whom they believed was a member of a rival gang walking his son home from school.

There followed “an altercation,” said the chief, after the older male began displaying rival gang signs which “are a method of identifying oneself as a gang member and a sign of disrespect to other gangs.”

“The young men in the car produced a hand gun and fired it 11 times at the 38-year-old man with total disregard for the safety of anyone in the area. All 11 shots missed the intended target. Shortly afterward a 911 call was placed from the chiropractic office across the street reporting an employee had been struck by one of the bullets.

“Despite the efforts of our officers, firefighters and paramedics, Gabriela died of her injuries — a victim of senseless gang violence,” the chief said.

The vehicle was soon identified at a house in Burien and the police monitored the house while a tactical team was assembled and two teens were arrested, and later all four were arrested.

“The following morning, a Burien detective recovered the gun believed to have been used in the homicide,” Boe said. He added that a third teen was arrested Monday (Sept. 24).

‘Violence in our Community’
Boe added that he wanted to “brief you on what we are doing on violence in our community.” He said he has told his special enforcement unit detectives “to focus their effort on cases that have a gang nexus or intelligence that guns are involved. I have added emphasis officers on overtime to supplement our normal patrol staffing which is four officers during most hours of the day.”

Burien Police are also working with other area departments “to work across jurisdictions” to make it clear “we will not tolerate gang violence,” the chief said, adding that he will meet with Highline Public Schools officers to make it clear gang violence won’t be tolerated in the area.

“A system where youth are released from custody over and over again despite multiple firearms charges is not in the best interest of community safety,” Boe told the Council. “To illustrate this point, I’ll tell you about a traffic stop just last night (Sunday, Sept. 16). Burien officers stopped a car occupied by several known gang members.

“One of the occupants was an intoxicated 15-year old youth,” the chief said. “With a prior conviction for possession of a firearm, and a current case pending for possession of a firearm on school grounds. The officers recovered firearms from one of the passengers in the vehicle, and other firearms were visible on the floor.”

Booking denied
“When the officers attempted to book the youth, booking was denied. This left the officers no choice but to take the juvenile home and release him. This case will likely result in the third firearms possession for that 15-year-old youth.”

Later, Councilmember Nancy Tosta asked Boe to explain what “booking was denied” means and who makes that decision.

The chief said the decision on whether a booking is allowed is made at the juvenile detention center – “there is a series of criteria that are taken into affect and ultimately it is their decision.”

“We don’t have a say into the criteria — it is a political leadership question” that maybe the Council could look into, Boe said.

City Manager Brian Wilson, himself a former police chief, said it is evident that “we can have several types of firearms violations and still not meet that level of criteria.” He said he could work to see if those criterial can be expanded “given what would arguably be given the circumstances the chief described.”

Even so, Boe said that Burien Police will continue efforts to partner with other law enforcement agencies, Highline Public Schools, community partners and the King County Prosecuting Attorney and others “as we look for short and long-term solutions to the violence in our community.”

After the chief’s presentation, Councilmember Bob Edgar said he wanted the city manager to inform the City Council on recommendations and ways the city can “strengthen public safety for residents by establishing additional patrols, enhancing enforcement and investigative resources and increasing regional intelligence sharing in order to address the significant community concerns about public safety.”

Councilmember Lucy Krakowiak placed Edgar’s request into a motion that Edgar seconded. Tosta said the motion was too broad and moved to scale it back to just have recommendations on strengthening public safety and the Council agreed.

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