The owner of a Kent tree nursery shot and killed an alleged intruder and held a second man at gunpoint until King County sheriff’s deputies arrived at his nearly 20-acre property early Wednesday.
Sheriff’s Sgt. Cindi West said the owner of Frager Farm Stand in the 25100 block of Frager Road South was getting ready for bed around 1:30 a.m. when he went to investigate a noise he heard at his business, which is adjacent to his house.
He grabbed his shotgun and discovered two young men riffling through his office, she said.
“We don’t know if there was something specific they were looking for, or just stuff to sell,” West said.
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Detectives are still piecing together what happened inside the office, she said. One alleged intruder, a man in his late teens or early 20s, was fatally shot and the second, a 21-year-old Maple Valley man, was arrested by deputies, according to West.
The King County Medical Examiner’s Office has not yet identified the dead man.
The 21-year-old suspect was booked into the King County Jail just after 5:30 a.m. Wednesday on investigation of burglary. He is also being held on a bench warrant that was issued Sept. 17 after he failed to show up in court to resolve a November 2012 violation for driving without a license, jail and court records show. He is expected to make his first court appearance Thursday.
According to the business license for Fruit Tree Nursery, the 65-year-old business owner has operated a wholesale and retail nursery specializing in fruit trees, shrubs and lavender plants since the mid-1980s. He and his wife built a 30- by 50-foot “agricultural accessory building” on the property in 2011 — the farm stand — and appear to have upgraded two large storage facilities last year, according to King County property records.
The man’s wife said Wednesday that sheriff’s officials have asked the couple not to make any statements to the media while the case is under investigation.
There was an earlier break-in at the nursery around 10 p.m. Tuesday, but the owner didn’t report that incident to police, West said. It’s unknown if the two break-ins are related.
The business owner, who called 911 from his cellphone after firing at the alleged intruders, was interviewed by detectives but was not taken into custody, West said. She said once the investigation is complete, the case will be sent to King County prosecutors, who will determine if the shooting was justified.
The 21-year-old man allegedly involved in the alleged break-in was arrested earlier this year on investigation of fourth-degree domestic-violence assault, court records show. He was charged last month and was scheduled to be arraigned Monday.
The alleged victim in the assault case is the man’s ex-girlfriend and the mother of his young daughter. In February, she was granted a domestic-violence protection order against him and he was ordered to undergo a chemical-dependency evaluation, though it doesn’t appear from court records that he did so.
In her petition for the protection order, the ex-girlfriend said the man was violent, had threatened to kill her and commit suicide, and repeatedly showed up drunk at her apartment. She also alleged that the man had been selling things — including food stamps and a gun he had stolen from his mother — to buy drugs, the records say.
The Times is not naming the man because he has not been charged in Wednesday’s break-in.
The man’s mother said Wednesday that her son has been abusing drugs.
Her son celebrated his 21st birthday Saturday, said the woman, who asked not to be identified. He started out abusing prescription pills but switched to heroin because it is cheaper, his mother said.
“There’s a heroin epidemic going around Maple Valley,” she said.
About a week ago, he was arrested trying to break into the garage of one of her neighbors, and charges are pending in that case, she said.
On Tuesday night, she dropped the man and his younger brother off in Kent to hang out with friends. She was contacted about 7:30 a.m. Wednesday by jail officials, who notified her that her older son was in custody.
She said she spent a couple of frantic hours trying to determine if her younger son had been killed during the Kent break-in before learning that he hadn’t been with his older brother at the time.
She said her son’s father died last year “and ever since then, he’s been going downhill.”
“He’s going to have to pay the consequences for what he’s done,” she said. “I hope he turns it around. If they release him (from jail), I don’t see him getting the help he needs.”
The Kent shooting is the third in recent weeks in King County in which a citizen has shot a crime suspect.
Early on Sept. 24, a former Marine shot and killed suspected car thief, Blake Moore, 26, of Renton, outside a Maple Valley home. Moore was inside the other’s man pickup and briefly surrendered before exchanging gunfire with the former Marine, sheriff’s officials said at the time.
Prosecutors are reviewing state self-defense statutes to determine if he will face criminal charges.
On Sept. 15, David Svendsen, who lives on a houseboat, fired a shotgun loaded with birdshot at a suspected boat thief, Michael Allan Bray, in Seattle’s Portage Bay. Bray is accused of stealing a 42-foot yacht from the Queen Anne Yacht Club and using the vessel to ram other boats and a dock, causing close to $500,000 in damage.
Bray, a 22-year-old Texas man who was half-naked and high on drugs at the time, has been charged with first-degree theft, first-degree malicious mischief and reckless endangerment, court records say.
Under state law, a person can use reasonable force to prevent or attempt to prevent injury or “malicious interference” with property in the person’s possession. Force can be used to detain someone who unlawfully enters a building.
Homicide is considered justifiable if the person using deadly force is lawfully defending himself or another person from someone who is committing a felony, or someone who presents an imminent danger, according to state law.
Seattle Times news researchers Gene Balk and Miyoko Wolf contributed to this report, which includes information from Times archives.
Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or firstname.lastname@example.org