Burien Police: Deadly Burien shooting caused by disrespect to gang tagging 1

Illustration based on Aaron Wells photo of altered Burien graffiti.

By Jack Mayne

Graffiti and not drugs were the cause of the fatal shooting of an 18-year old man in a dark alley area behind the Alturas apartment complex last week, said Burien Police.

Despite vocal concerns of many city residents, Burien Police say the management of the Alturas Apartments (formerly The Heights) have been “very responsive to any incidents they become aware of” and that they are a “good partner with the Burien Police.”

Burien Police Capt. Bryan Howard said the murder was in no way connected to the operations of the apartment complex or the nearby convenience store.

Howard made the comments in response to questions regarding the shooting death of 18-year-old Manuel Ortiz Ornelas on Jan. 3 outside the Alturas apartment complex at 1101 SW 139th Street in Burien last week. Second-degree murder charges have been filed against a 17-year-old male (read our previous coverage here).

‘Confident’ of Alturas
Howard said he is “confident they are committed to safety for their tenants and the surrounding community. They shared exciting plans on future improvements to the complex and they have continued to schedule security patrols with the same security company that has been there for some time.”

Howard said the total number of calls to police was for 919 events, but the “increase may represent an increase in our patrols and self initiated contacts.” He said there were six thefts by use or threat of force, and five felony assaults and the complex.

Burien officers responded to 39 incidents where no arrests were made, and to 377 events, which were cleared as “suspicious circumstances,” and took 53 auto theft reports and responded to 12 citizen assist calls at the Alturas in recent months.

Murder charge filed
King County prosecutors charged Ernesto Josue Rios-Andrade, 17, of Tukwila, on Jan. 6 with the second-degree murder of Ornelas, the Seattle Times reported on Sunday (Jan. 8). Under Washington state law, 16- and 17-year-olds can be charged as adults for serious violent crimes, including murder, and therefore his name is disclosed.

Howard told The B-Town Blog that the shooting occurred in a dark alley area behind the apartment complex, and was not over a drug deal gone bad, but over the alleged disrespect for a gang tagging, the spray painted ways groups identify what they consider their area of control.

Initially booked into the King County Youth Services Center, Rios-Andrade has since been transferred to the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent, where he remains in lieu of $1 million bail, jail and court records show.

The charges say Rios-Andrade “is known to police as being a member or associate of a local street gang with a substantial presence in the greater Burien area.” Police were also familiar with Ortiz Ornelas, who was an admitted gang member. The charges don’t name the gangs.

The Times reported that in days before his death Ortiz Ornelas was upset about “graffiti disrespect,” because gang graffiti had been crossed out or altered.

Just before 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Rios-Andrade and Ortiz Ornelas got into an argument regarding the gang graffiti, say the charges.

“Specifically, this argument centered on the disrespect that was made by someone crossing out all or a portion of one gang’s graffiti ‘logo’ and replacing it with another symbol (or simply crossing out a portion of the original graffiti),” charging papers say.

Rios-Andrade is accused of pulling a gun and firing at Ortiz Ornelas three times, killing him, say the charges. Ortiz Ornelas, who lived nearby, was unarmed.

Rios-Andrade and two other teens fled but were spotted by a witness and an undercover detective, and were detained near the scene, the charges say. Rios-Andrade was arrested.

The Times said the prosecutor’s filing says Rios-Andrade threw away the handgun as he ran, but officers have been unable to find it.