Before he sentenced Timothy James Murray, a King County judge said Friday he didn’t believe Murray meant to kill a homeless man in Seattle’s Ravenna Park on March 8, 2012.
He did believe Murray confronted Alpha Lake Rajai after seeing him in the park and that a confrontation ended in Murray fatally shooting Rajai.
“It was just a horrible morning gone wrong,” Superior Court Judge Michael Hayden said.
Murray, 27, was sentenced to 10 years and three months in prison after pleading guilty in June to second-degree murder for killing 59-year-old Rajai, a homeless man who was considered a fixture in Ravenna Park
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Prior to sentencing, three friends described Rajai, known as “Lake,” as a positive presence in the park, a warrior who wanted to keep the area safe.
Murray was near the park’s tennis court with two friends about 3 a.m. when, he said, he wanted to scare Rajai with a gun, according to charging papers. He led his friends to where Rajai was sitting and yelled, “Get down on the ground!” Rajai wouldn’t comply.
Rajai tried to get the gun away from Murray, who then shot him. Rajai was pronounced dead at Harborview Medical Center.
Rajai was a Vietnam veteran, friend Johann Sasyniuk said, and had been shot during the war. He was 6-foot-3 and trained in kung fu. He knew he shouldn’t get “down on the ground,” Sasyniuk said.
Days after the murder, more than 60 people gathered at a memorial in the park to remember Rajai.
“All my friend Lake wanted was to be left alone, and that did not happen,” Russell Hartwig said during Friday’s sentencing.
Rajai had no known family members, but a group of longtime friends sat in the back of the courtroom, near a dozen of Murray’s family members and friends. When Rajai’s friend called Murray a leader of “thugs,” the group of men shook their heads.
“(Murray) is the most caring, most gentle person I have ever known,” Rhonda Murray, Murray’s mother, said later in the hallway of the King County Courthouse.
Defense attorney John Hicks said despite Rajai’s reputation as protector of the park, “There was a different Mr. Lake at night,” and that Murray may have felt threatened by Rajai. Prosecutor Don Raz said if Murray felt a threat, it’s because he put himself in that position.
Hayden, the judge, said Murray made the decision to confront Rajai with a gun.
“Once you start an improper confrontation with a gun, bad things will happen,” Hayden said.
Murray’s sentence was at the low end of the standard sentencing range because he didn’t intend to kill Rajai, Hayden said.
Murray spoke briefly before he was sentenced.
“I’m sorry to anybody that I hurt,” he said facing Hayden, and then turned around to face the group watching. “I’m sorry to anybody that I hurt.”
Paige Cornwell: 206-464-2517 or firstname.lastname@example.org