Defense attorneys representing Marquise Tolbert and William Tolliver entered not-guilty pleas on behalf of their clients Wednesday morning on eight criminal counts — including first-degree murder — in connection with the gang-related gunfight they’re accused of instigating in downtown Seattle last month at the height of the evening commute. One woman was killed and six other people were shot but survived.
Tolbert, 24, was the first to appear before King County Superior Court Judge Patrick Oishi. After entering Tolbert’s not-guilty pleas, attorney Lisa Mulligan told the judge she wanted to address Tolbert’s no-bail hold in the King County Jail but reserved argument on the issue for a later date. Tolbert’s appearance lasted about 5 minutes.
Due to the complexity of the case, Oishi, the court’s chief criminal judge, indicated he would pre-assign the cases against Tolbert, Tolliver, and Jamel Jackson — the alleged shooters’ intended target — to himself. He set a March 4 placeholder date for the next court hearing.
Tolliver, 24, who was arraigned separately, appeared for less than 3 minutes. His attorney, Cathy Gormley, also entered not-guilty pleas to all counts and said she would reserve argument on her client’s no-bail hold. (Court records spell Tolliver’s last name two ways, with either one or two “L”s.)
In addition to first-degree murder, the two men are each charged with six counts of first-degree assault, with each count carrying a firearms enhancement. They are also each charged with first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm. If convicted as charged, Tolbert and Tolliver face de facto life sentences.
The state Legislature amended the state Constitution in 2010, allowing bail to be denied for criminal defendants facing possible life sentences, so long as there is convincing evidence of a defendant’s propensity for violence that creates a substantial likelihood of danger to the community. The change was instituted following the November 2009 fatal shootings of four Lakewood police officers at a Parkland, Pierce County coffee shop by Maurice Clemmons, a felon who was released from jail six days before the shootings due to a lax bail system.
Jackson, 21, has been charged with first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm and entered a not-guilty plea before a different judge on Feb. 10. He remains jailed in lieu of $250,000 bail.
In the aftermath of the Jan. 22 shootings at Third Avenue and Pine Street, Seattle police determined that none of the 9 mm rounds allegedly fired by Jackson killed or injured any of the victims, court records show. Jackson was recognized by Seattle Police gang-unit detectives from video-surveillance footage of the shooting scene and was arrested that night at Harborview Medical Center, where he was treated for a gunshot wound to the thigh.
Police also recognized Tolbert and Tolliver, rival gang members of Jackson, from the footage, court records say.
According to prosecutors, Tolbert and Tolliver fled to Las Vegas three days after the shootings and were arrested there Feb. 1. They waived extradition and were booked into the King County Jail on Feb. 12.
The shootings at Third and Pine started with a 5 p.m. chance encounter between Jackson, Tolbert and Tolliver: Video from the scene shows Tolbert and Tolliver exchanging words with Jackson outside a McDonald’s restaurant, before Tolliver pulls out a gun and fires a shot at Jackson, who is seen reacting to being shot and returning fire, the charges say.
The footage then shows Tolbert firing at Jackson, who turns and runs east on Pine Street. Based on the video, Tolbert and Tolliver — who had arrived at the intersection together a few minutes before the shooting — turn and run south on Third Avenue while “shooting indiscriminately behind them as they run and continuing to shoot even after Jackson was out of sight on E. Pine Street,” the charges say.
Police later recovered at least 20 shell casings from three different weapons.
Killed in the crossfire was 50-year-old Tanya Jackson. One woman, four men including Jackson, and a 9-year-old boy were all hit by bullets. The woman is the only shooting victim who remains hospitalized. She is in satisfactory condition at Harborview, according to the hospital. An eighth person was injured by shattered glass.
After Wednesday’s arraignment of Tolbert and Tolliver, Tolliver’s grandmother, who appeared to be the only relative in attendance, briefly spoke to the media in the hallway outside the courtroom. Lizzie Coleman claimed her grandson got caught up with the wrong people and denied any knowledge of his being involved in a gang.
“I know he’s not a killer. He has a loving heart. He’s not going to hurt no one, you know, that’s not what he does, that’s not how he was brought up,” she said. “He just got caught up with the wrong person at the wrong time.”
But in an opinion piece published by Crosscut, former Seattle Times reporter Marcus Harrison Green wrote that he knew Tolliver as a teenager:
“My immediate family worried about him, a fear borne of William’s constant exposure to drugs, gangs, violence and petty robberies. As a teenager from a troubled home, he seemed at times to be raising himself,” wrote Green, whose opinion piece advocated for early intervention to steer children and teens away from a path of violence and incarceration.
This story has been corrected. An earlier version used the wrong last name for Lisa Mulligan, Marquise Tolbert’s attorney.