Testimony began Wednesday in King County Superior Court in the trial of a 19-year-old Renton man accused of fatally shooting one man and wounding three other people inside a Rainier Avenue South bus shelter over a botched drug deal and robbery.
Say (pronounced Si) Keodara is charged with first-degree murder and three counts of first-degree assault in the early-morning shootings in September 2011.
In opening statements, King County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Carla Carlstrom said Keodara shot the four because he was angry that none had money or valuables to give him.
The alleged victims are “three homeless men and a woman who was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Carlstrom said.
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Keodara, she said, “figured no one would care if he shot a bunch of drunk homeless people at a bus shelter. … He was wrong.”
Defense attorney Ramona Brandes characterized the case as a “good old-fashioned whodunit,” telling jurors there is no physical evidence tying her client to the crimes.
The jury of 10 men and four women were told Wednesday that Keodara, then 17, wasn’t legally allowed to possess a firearm at the time of the shootings.
But Superior Court Judge Laura Middaugh previously ruled during pretrial hearings that jurors won’t get to hear about Keodara’s alleged membership in the Rollin’ 60s Crips street gang or his 10 juvenile felony convictions, including three for unlawful firearm possession.
According to court documents, Keodara goes by the street name “Psycho” and has “RSC” — the initials of his alleged gang — tattooed on his forearm. He joined the gang when he was 13 and wanted “to prove himself as a hit man for fellow gang members,” the documents say.
A little before 3 a.m. on Sept. 12, 2011, three homeless men — Victor Parker, 54, Hassan Arr, 29, and Archie Henderson, 68 — were drinking beer in a bus shelter on the northwest corner of Rainier Avenue South and South McClellan Street, Carlstrom told jurors.
Also there was a woman, Sharon McMillon, 43, who had just purchased beer at the Chevron gas station across the street and was waiting for a bus to take her back to her mother’s house, Carlstrom said.
A tan-colored, four-door car pulled up and one of three Asian males inside asked if anyone wanted to buy some “soft,” a street term for crack cocaine, jurors were told. Parker expressed interest, prompting the driver to turn around and park in the lot of a nearby business. The three men, one with an handgun, approached the bus shelter on foot, Carlstrom said.
“But Mr. Parker didn’t have money to buy anything,” she said.
Ordered at gunpoint to hand over their money and valuables, McMillon gave the gunman her purse, Carlstrom said.
“The defendant was angry. He wanted money,” she said.
Parker was shot first and collapsed on the sidewalk with a shattered leg bone. Arr tried to flee and was shot twice. McMillon and Henderson, who were crouched down in the bus shelter, were then shot; McMillon in the thigh and Henderson in the knee, jurors heard. The gunman then stood over Parker and fired again, striking him in the middle of his forehead.
The survivors described the gunman as a short, young Asian male with short hair who was wearing a turquoise basketball jersey.
Detectives gathered video-surveillance footage from nearby businesses that showed the tan car and a short Asian male wearing a blue Charlotte Hornet’s jersey, but they didn’t get a break in the case until a week later, Carlstrom said.
A Wenatchee police officer contacted Seattle police and said he had an informant with information about the shootings. According to court papers, Nathaniel Smallbeck — a friend who had met Keodara when both were in a juvenile-facility boot camp — told the Wenatchee officer he’d received a frantic call from Keodara, who told him about the shooting and asked if he could stay with Smallbeck, who told him ‘no.’
About a month after the shootings, Renton police arrested Keodara for an unrelated burglary. He has been in custody ever since.
Keodara’s ex-girlfriend identified him from surveillance footage, and cellphone records placed Keodara in the area at the time of the shootings, according to Carlstrom.
The gun used in the shootings was never found, and the two other Asian males who were at the scene were never identified, she said.
In her opening statement, Brandes said the surveillance footage isn’t clear enough to identify people and that two cellphones taken into evidence by police weren’t registered to her client.
“They don’t have DNA, they don’t have any physical evidence of any kind linking Say Keodara to this crime,” Brandes said.
Smallbeck and McMillon are expected to testify against Keodara, but prosecutors have been unable to locate Henderson.
According to court documents, Arr will not testify against Keodara because he was viciously beaten
in an unrelated attack in Tukwila last year. He now requires round-the-clock care in a rehabilitation facility and has no memory of the 2011 shooting.
His assailant, Jaquon Hogues, now 18, pleaded guilty to first-degree assault in April and is scheduled for sentencing Friday. Prosecutors are seeking an 8½-year prison term.
Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or firstname.lastname@example.org