The older victim was reportedly from West Seattle and the younger victim lived in White Center. They were with a group of 10 to 15 kids, some as young as 10 years old, when the fight occurred.
After making a little money, Eveona Cortez had planned to move back to Vancouver, Washington, to live with her father, stepmother and siblings.
She had just visited them last week before returning to Seattle, where she spent her childhood before her father moved the family south in 2014. At 16, she dropped out of school and moved in with her maternal grandmother in West Seattle.
“She was just down here visiting me for a couple weeks, and we sent her back up on Saturday,” said her father, Ruben Cortez. “She was just supposed to get a couple things in order and come back to Vancouver. She wanted to get out of all the things up there.”
Eveona, 19, and a younger girl were killed Wednesday at a sprawling Burien apartment complex in a shooting King County sheriff’s detectives believe to be gang-related. Detectives have released no information on suspects.
On Thursday morning, yellow Post-it Notes marked the bullet holes — at least 13 of them — that riddled the tan siding of one of the complex’s buildings, where the teens were shot around 9:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Eveona Cortez and the younger girl later died at Harborview Medical Center.
The names of the victims were not released Thursday by the King County Medical Examiner’s Office. Ruben Cortez identified his daughter as one of the victims. Attempts to reach family members of the second victim, who is either 13 or 14, were unsuccessful.
Ruben Cortez said he wasn’t aware just how deeply his 19-year-old daughter was apparently involved in a street gang but knew she wanted a fresh start.
“A lot has been brought to light today,” he said. “She didn’t want to be part of it no more.”
Sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Ryan Abbott said the shooting occurred after an altercation near one of the parking lots at the apartment complex, in the 13900 block of Ambaum Boulevard Southwest. He said numerous shots were fired, and the two victims were struck.
“The suspect, or suspects, ran to a car and left the scene,” said Abbott, who could not provide a suspect description.
“It was a pretty horrible and chaotic scene with people running everywhere and screaming,” he said.
Counting Wednesday’s double homicide, four people ages 19 or younger have been killed in shootings at the Alturas @ Burien complex since January 2016.
A 16-year-old girl who lives at the complex and knew both victims killed Wednesday night said the teens argued with the shooter, who moved into the complex a week or two ago. The Seattle Times is not naming the 16-year-old because of her age.
The 16-year-old said the younger victim lived in White Center. The victims were with a group of 10 to 15 kids, some as young as 10 years old, when the fight occurred, she said.
The victims were affiliated with one gang while the shooter was a member of a rival gang, according to the 16-year-old.
As she spoke, a worker painted over gang graffiti spray-painted on the Burien Gardens Shopping Center next door — most of which was sprayed on the corrugated metal within the past couple of days, the girl said.
Asked if she was scared by the gang violence, the girl shrugged and said, “I’m used to it.”
Catherine Carbone Rogers, spokeswoman for Highline Public Schools, said the district, based on information on social media and from students, has informed staff they have “reason to believe” the younger victim attended Sylvester Middle School.
But the district has not been provided official identification, she said.
Counseling was being made available to students at the middle school, she said.
However, Highline Superintendent Susan Enfield tweeted Thursday morning: “I just left a room of scared, sobbing @HighlineSchools middle schoolers mourning the loss of their classmate who was shot and killed last night. Don’t tell me — or them — that we don’t have a gun problem that needs to be addressed.”
Carbone Rogers confirmed that Enfield had visited Sylvester Middle School.
The rival gangs apparently involved in Wednesday’s shooting have been warring for at least the past year or so. Based on court records, the two gangs were involved in back-to-back fatal shootings in April 2017 in Federal Way and Burien, and have been linked to drive-by shootings in Seattle.
Two teenagers were fatally shot at the same apartment complex where Eveona Cortez and the younger girl were shot, one in January 2016 and the second a year later.
Alberto Zavala Leon, 17, died from a gunshot to the head on Jan. 8, 2016, in a parking lot directly west of the shopping center where Wednesday night’s shooting occurred. A car sped off, and a group of people left the scene on foot, police said at the time. Zavala was a student at Highline High School.
It does not appear that anyone has been arrested in connection with his death.
The 16-year-old who knew the victims of Wednesday’s shooting said she had dated Zavala. It’s unclear whether his death was gang-related.
On Jan. 3, 2017, Manuel Ortiz Ornelas, 18, died of gunshot wounds in a dispute over “graffiti disrespect” after someone defaced his gang’s markings, according to court records. A then-17-year-old, Joshua Rios Andrade, was charged as an adult with second-degree murder. His case is pending.
According to Burien police, the victim was a gang member, and Andrade, who lived in Tukwila and has since turned 18, is an associate or member of a street gang in the greater Burien area.
A woman named Stephanie, who came to the phone at the number listed for Alturas @ Burien, said she didn’t have any information about the fatal shootings at the property so couldn’t make a statement, then hung up.
Ruben Cortez and his wife, Kendra, plan to drive to Seattle on Friday, the earliest they’ve been told Eveona’s body could be released by the medical examiner.
“Everybody loved her. She was extremely spirited and full of joy all the time,” Cortez said of his daughter.
A talented singer, Eveona Cortez also played the saxophone, clarinet and piano and loved music, especially R&B and songs by the singer Adele, he said.
Ruben Cortez learned of his daughter’s death when his grandmother called him at 2 a.m. Thursday — and the news has left everyone in his large, extended family reeling.
“I never expected anything like this. It’s so cliché to say, but you never think it’s going to be you. It’s nothing you could ever prepare for,” he said.
Seattle Times staff reporter Steve Miletich and news researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this story.
Editor’s note: Due to the number of comments on this story that violated our Terms of Service, the comment thread has been removed.