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.

Senior Reporter Jack Mayne passed away in December, 2021. In his honor we have created the Jack Mayne Journalism Scholarship.

27 replies on “Burien Police: Deadly Burien shooting caused by disrespect to gang tagging”

  1. The question we all want to know is are they, or their parents, illegal aliens?

    And if so, why are they allowed to live here without a green card?


    1. There is no established link between providing sanctuary for undocumented immigrants and gang activity. If anything an open and supporting community would diminish the attraction of belonging to a gang. Every time I read these pages, which is rare, here you are making anti-immigrant comments. Why is that?

      1. There is a an absolute relationship between latin gangs and illegal aliens being in the community. Enforce the immigration laws or you can expect this to happen constantly.

          1. Well duh. Since foreign gang members would not be allowed into the U S legally, they are by definition illegal immigrants. This article calling them “illegal immigrant gangs” just seems to be a way to demonize the vast majority of illegal immigrants who are actually refugees and have a lower crime rate in the U S than the actual citizens.

          2. Judicial watch is an activist group that pushes fake news and conspiracy theories consistent with its anti-immigrant agenda

      2. Immigrants are not the same as ILLEGAL immigrants.

        One group didn’t break our laws and one did.

        1. I see people who took incredible risk to flee their homeland and contribute a lot to our community but you see law breakers. Why is that?

  2. Actually, Concerned Citizen, their immigration status never crossed my mind until you brought it up.

    1. Gotta love how Burien PD think it was gang graffiti & not drug related crime.

      What the hell do they think gang graffiti is about…it’s about turf wars to sell drugs duh?

      Wake up…Mexican drug cartels have got a foot hold in our city.

      1. I agree, If you want to be a santuary city you can expect a lot more gangs, drugs, graffiti, violance and people expecting more “free stuff”.

    2. Yeah, last time I checked, U.S. citizens can be gang members, too. Every immigrant in this area could leave and we would still have a gang problem. Actually, gangs can be a lot more welcoming and supportive than the communities around them, which is WHY kids join in the first place, to belong to SOMEthing. Not defending gangs, just, that’s how it works. We’re talking about children here, and the lack of resources and support and other community-supported outlets for them that keep them OUT of gangs. Lack of resources+gangs’ appeal+ease of obtaining firearms = this news story.

  3. Isn’t it wonderful that this group of residents find “tagging” priorities more important than life itself….wtf….

  4. Stop gang activity NOW! Otherwise, Burien will look like Chicago.

    If it takes more cops, hire them. We can use the money we save if we elect not to become a sanctuary city.

  5. Not sure what the city’s policy is on graffiti/tagging, but it would be a win/win for all to have it immediately removed.

    1. Since my property gets repeatedly tagged, and I repeatedly remove it, I can describe Burien’s response to graffiti.

      If the graffiti is reported to the city, a Burien inspector, after observing it, will issue the property owner a notice to remove it. The notice will include a due date by which time it has to have been removed. If its not removed by the due date, the city will start fining the owner. Its been my experience that the city is willing to negotiate the removal due date with the property owner.

      If the property owner takes the notice to Miller Paints on 152nd, the removal supplies will be provided; Burien will pay for the supplies. Its the owner’s responsibility to provide the removal labor.

      Its extremely disconcerting to know, that now, a person removing graffiti could be considered “disrespecting” it and get shot.

  6. Graffiti………………has its place. It Is art and culture……….its definition is deeper than the word “gentrification” and to simply look at it as something to “immediately remove” is a display of ignorance. “Kilroy was here” Before we attack all Graffiti let’s examine its history………….not all Graffiti is bad…………

    John White

    1. Uhh John, we are not talking graffiti here. We are talking gang tagging, which, as has just been proven can lead to deaths. And is a bit like having billboards for the local illegal drug market and where to sign up for the local youth crime league.

    2. You’re right John, graffiti has it’s place, but one of the problems is that it’s not usually in it’s place, it’s generally on someone else’s property and generally defaces it. I’ve seen some truly incredible artwork and always covered it up.

      One bad thing about graffiti is that it’s like rabbits, it breeds in the dark. Before you know it you have graffiti covering graffiti. There have been a few times that I’ve ignored graffiti for a little while (like a really incredible skeleton in a stairwell just before Halloween) and it’s always resulted in more graffiti in that area. In areas where it’s painted over PDQ there tends to be very little graffiti.

  7. Just after they paint over it, they come tag it all back up again. Maybe just cordon off that alley & take their wall away since it seems to be quite the hot spot for unsavory behavior

  8. Nobody likes to hang out in a well lit alley, that’s much the same reason you see less rat’s during the day. The shoot on sight rule applies both ways to solve it.

    1. Dervis, you may want to believe this stuff you are peddling, but there is more than enough crime perpetrated by good ole US citizens, everyday. US citizens of every stripe from the down and out, to those with the highest incomes. You will find what you look for. Try looking at the daily news on a few different sources and see if you see any US citizens getting caught running afoul of the law. I tally up a host of such characters.

  9. Wow! I haven’t seen any of you concerned citizens show any concerns about the thrown gun that hasn’t been recovered….

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