Gunfire erupted at a lowrider car show in Kent Saturday, injuring 13 people. None of the injuries is believed to be life-threatening.

Share story

After gunfire erupted at a Kent lowrider car show Saturday, injuring 13, Andy Valdes’ phone began to ring. Friends wanted to know if he was all right.

He considered attending the show but decided against it after noticing the music lineup included what appeared to be Southern California gangster rappers.

“The music they sing, it’s pretty much gang-related,” said Valdes, president of Rollerz Only Northwest and owner of an award-winning 1994 blue Cadillac. “I already had an idea that [violence] was going to happen.” His club instead traveled to a show at a Burien-area church.

Police aren’t saying yet what may have prompted the shootings, but witnesses say in interviews that several young people were “mugging,” or staring down each other. No arrests were made as of Saturday night. Police did not return phone calls Sunday.

This week, save 90% on digital access.

Nine people — seven males and two females ranging from age 14 to 32 — were taken to Harborview Medical Center with injuries to arms, legs, feet and torso. Four were treated and released and five were admitted overnight, Harborview spokeswoman Susan Gregg said. All were in satisfactory condition Sunday afternoon.

Four others were shot, at least two of whom went to other hospitals, police said. No other information was available on their conditions, but their wounds were believed to be non-life-threatening, police said.

The incident began with a confrontation at 4:15 p.m., which quickly led to gunfire in the parking lot of La Plaza shopping center, where the event was held, Kent police Sgt. Jarod Kasner said. The free, all-ages show was in the 23200 block of Pacific Highway South, where it meets the Kent-Des Moines Road.

Between 200-300 people attended the show, along with 50 or 60 classic and lowrider cars. The crowd quickly dispersed, either on foot or in cars, as police showed up. Jose Gutierrez, vice president of Rollerz Only Northwest, said at least one of the bands booked for the lowrider show was from California and has a YouTube video that features performers displaying gang colors and mentioning gang allegiance.

“The bands should have raised a flag for police,” Gutierrez said.

Lokos Music of Kent sponsored the event. Organizers could not be reached by phone Sunday. Midget Loco and Baby Jokes, a pair of Los Angeles rappers associated with the Urban Kings music label, were scheduled to perform, according to their YouTube clips promoting the Kent show.

Gutierrez said he stopped by the Kent show earlier in the day and saw people he knew from other car shows. There was no sign of trouble then, he said. “There’s never a problem unless organizers bring in music artists from outside the area,” he said. “The gangster rap brings in the wrong crowds.”

Police weren’t staffing the car show, but were passing by the shopping mall during routine patrols, Kasner said The organizers didn’t make any security arrangements beforehand with police, he said.

Valdes said he’s never seen violence at a Northwest car show, including two his club held in recent years in Arlington.

Lowrider shows in Portland used to attract trouble, according to news reports. In 2004, for instance, a 16-year-old boy died from a gunshot wound to the head, according to the Portland Tribune. After that, police beefed up their presence, and organizers banned gang attire, stressing the theme, “It’s about the cars,” the newspaper reported.

For his upcoming Arlington show on Aug. 6, Valdes said the live music will include classic rock, but no hard-core rap. It will be a multiracial event including tricked-out motorbikes and bicycle contests.

“The sheriff knows about it, the fire department knows about it, I have a million dollars insurance. I’m on top of it — I don’t want anything going down,” he said. “If it [violence] ever happened, I would stop putting on shows.”

Several lowrider car owners, gathered in front of a Kent car-repair shop Saturday night, said they believe police should staff the events. “Hopefully, this will be a wake-up call to law-enforcement,” said a businessman who identified himself as Marco M, a custom-car painter.

When gunfire started Saturday, frightened spectators had to run for safety in nearby shops. Patrons and employees in the stores and restaurants locked the doors and crouched in backrooms to escape the gunfire.

“First I heard like six shots, then they kept going,” said Alejandro Lara, a witness. He said he saw a single gunman firing from the front of the shopping center into the parking lot full of people.

A few storefronts away, Radio Shack employees locked the door, but opened it to let in an injured teen, bleeding from a gunshot wound to her harm. “It just grazed her arm, but it was deep. We put pressure on it and stayed with her until medics arrived,” said salesman Richard Del Toro. Just before the gunfire, he saw a young man with fists raised sprinting toward the confrontation near the music stage.

Police did not know how many shooters there were, and they were continuing to interview victims and witnesses. Witness Erica Parker said she was working at a Subway shop near the car show when she and other employees heard gunshots. People started running in, she said, screaming, “He’s got a gun!”

When the shots began, car owners pushed each other to the pavement for cover, said Cesar DePale. “It was real scary. I don’t own a gun. I’ve never even heard a gunshot before. That’s how mellow I am.

“It was a good show, but a bad vibe.” He said he’s been to 10 similar shows before that were peaceful and was at Saturday’s show to flaunt dancing hydraulics on his maroon 1986 Buick.

The owner of a nearby restaurant said an off-duty police officer had just finished a meal with his family when the shooting started. He left to go to his car, but returned to the restaurant and told everyone to get away from the windows.

The restaurant owner, who did not want her name in the paper, said she felt intimidated all day by rowdy crowds at the car show. Before the shooting, she said, she saw two men fighting on a corner at the edge of the plaza.

Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to call the Kent police tips line at 253-856-5808.

Seattle Times staff reporters Mike Lindblom, Lynn Thompson and Emily Heffter contributed to this story. Information from the Portland Tribune also is included in this report.

Custom-curated news highlights, delivered weekday mornings.