Ali Muhammad Brown’s first appearance in King County Superior Court on Wednesday morning lasted only a few minutes, long enough for him to enter not-guilty pleas to three counts of aggravated first-degree murder in connection with the shooting deaths of three men — one in Skyway and two in Seattle — in spring 2014.
For Falana Young-Wyatt, the moment she first clapped eyes on her son’s accused killer proved to be more emotional than she expected. She burst into tears.
“It’s been a long time coming, five years. I didn’t know how I would react. This is my first time seeing him in person,” Young-Wyatt said of Brown after his arraignment before Judge Veronica Alicea-Galván. “I’m ready for this, ready to get justice for my son and the other victims.”
Brown, now 34, is accused of killing Young-Wyatt’s son, Dwone Anderson-Young, and Ahmed Said in Seattle’s Leschi neighborhood in June 2014, and gunning down Leroy Henderson in Skyway that April. On June 25, 2014, outside Newark, New Jersey, Brown ambushed and killed college student Brendan Tevlin. He pleaded guilty to murder and other criminal charges in the New Jersey case in April 2018 and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of release.
Brown’s extradition from New Jersey to face murder charges here required an executive agreement between New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee. Brown was booked into the King County Jail on Oct. 30 and is being held without bail. Once the Seattle case against Brown is resolved, he’ll be returned to New Jersey to serve out his life sentence, according to King County prosecutors.
Before Brown was ushered into Alicea-Galván’s court, defense attorneys George Eppler and Brian Beattie discussed a motion they filed earlier this week, which asked that Brown not be shackled in court, that he be allowed to wear street clothes instead of jail garb to his court hearings and that the media be barred from photographing his face during arraignment. The requests, the attorneys said, were to preserve the presumption of innocence and ensure no unfair prejudice.
Alicea-Galván told the defense Brown would not be appearing before her in shackles, so the point was moot. She denied the defense request for civilian clothing, saying it was important for defendants to wear jail clothes so they are quickly identifiable and don’t blend in with other people in the courthouse. Still, the judge assured the attorneys Brown would be allowed to wear street clothes during his trial. Alicea-Galván also denied the defense request to bar the news media from photographing Brown because under court rules, there is a presumption that news photography is allowed. The Seattle Times was the only news agency present for Brown’s arraignment.
In Washington, the only possible sentence for aggravated first-degree murder is life in prison without the possibility of release. In February 2014, Inslee imposed a moratorium on carrying out the death penalty. After Brown was charged that summer with three counts of aggravated first-degree murder, King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg announced his office would not seek the death penalty in Brown’s case. The Washington State Supreme Court unanimously struck down the death penalty as unconstitutional in October 2018, ruling the state’s 37-year-old capital-punishment law is “invalid because it is imposed in an arbitrary and racially biased manner.”
King County prosecutors have said Brown was on a self-proclaimed “jihad” and characterized himself as a strict Muslim who became angry at the deaths of civilians and children during U.S. involvement in Iraq, Iran, Syria and Afghanistan.
“The defendant was on a bloody crusade, executing four innocent men … with the same murder weapon, over the course of approximately two months, and all under the common and single scheme of exacting ‘vengeance’ against the United States government for its foreign policies,” prosecutors wrote in court documents.
On April 27, 2014, Leroy Henderson, 30, was walking home from a Skyway store when he was shot at least six times in the back by Brown, who was driving his former girlfriend’s SUV and carrying her 9 mm handgun that he’d stolen from her Tacoma apartment, according to criminal charges filed by King County prosecutors.
But Brown wasn’t identified as a suspect in Henderson’s homicide until weeks later, after he had killed Dwone Anderson-Young, 23, and Ahmed Said, 27, the charges say.
The two young men had met up with friends at R Place, a gay club on Capitol Hill, on June 1, 2014. Said had been communicating with Brown on a gay social-networking app, and then met Brown outside the club that night, according to the charges. Said offered to drive Anderson-Young home and he and Brown got into Said’s car.
At the end of the 17-minute drive to Anderson-Young’s house in Leschi, Brown shot both men multiple times inside the car, the charges say.
Brown, who has prior criminal convictions, was identified from a palm print left on a window of Said’s car, according to the charges. Police in Seattle and in New Jersey matched bullets and shell casings from the three homicide scenes to the 9 mm handgun that was in Brown’s possession when he was arrested in New Jersey on July 18, 2014.
Young-Wyatt said her son was a University of Washington graduate who had his own web-design business. She plans to be in court for most of Brown’s hearings as his case moves toward trial.
“Dwone was an amazing soul and I’m just honored to be his mother,” she said outside of the courtroom. “I want him (Brown) to know Dwone had family and friends who loved him, that his life mattered. Dwone doesn’t have a voice so now I am his voice.”