King County prosecutors say Tayjuan “Baby Tate” Fletcher pulled a .45-caliber handgun with an extended magazine out of his waistband and fired at least a dozen shots in a Rainier Beach parking lot last month, killing two men who weren’t involved in an argument Fletcher was having with a third man about the founding of a long-running South Seattle street gang.
Fletcher, 18, of Federal Way, was charged Wednesday with two counts of second-degree murder in the May 23 shooting deaths of Christopher Wilson Jr., 35, and De’Andre Roberts, 23, in the Safeway parking lot in the 9200 block of Rainier Avenue South, court records show.
Senior Deputy Prosecutor Jennifer Petersen on Wednesday requested that Fletcher’s bail be increased from $1 million to $5 million after prosecutors obtained a court order unsealing his juvenile criminal record, charging papers say. Fletcher, who was convicted of seven felonies and multiple misdemeanors as a juvenile, is also charged with first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm.
The charges say Fletcher most recently served 14 months in the custody of the Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration and was released in November.
“In this case, at approximately 6:20 p.m., the defendant opened fire in a crowded Safeway parking lot filled with dozens of bystanders and shoppers. He fired at least 12 rounds, shooting and killing two victims and striking the vehicle of a third intended victim,” Petersen wrote in charging papers. “At the time of his arrest, the defendant was in possession of a loaded handgun with an extended magazine. The defendant’s willingness to commit such a violent crime in broad daylight and in a public setting shows that he is a substantial danger to the community.”
On Monday, Seattle police announced on the department’s online blotter that an 18-year-old suspect had been arrested Sunday in Federal Way with the help of U.S. Marshals and the Valley SWAT team. But charging papers say Fletcher was actually taken into custody on Sunday by SeaTac police, who notified a Seattle police detective that Fletcher had been a back seat passenger in a white Volkswagen Passat. SeaTac police recovered a gun with an extended magazine in the seat pouch directly in front of where Fletcher had been sitting and found a .45-caliber, hollow-point bullet in his pocket, the charges say.
According to the charges:
When Seattle police arrived at the shooting scene, Wilson had already died from his injuries and Roberts, who was transported to Harborview Medical Center, died a short time later. Officers recovered 12, .45-caliber shell casings from the parking lot.
A woman who had been with Wilson and Roberts told investigators that the trio had been chatting with a group of friends, including a man in his 40s who was inside a parked Chevrolet Tahoe. At some point, a young male joined the group and the woman noticed the newcomer had a gun with an extended magazine hanging out of the waistband of his pants.
After briefly leaving with Roberts to get food, the woman parked in a stall, with a red car between her vehicle and the Tahoe. Wilson and Roberts were outside her car and the young male was arguing with the driver of the Tahoe.
She described “the younger male with the gun was getting angrier with the older male in the Tahoe and was ‘calling him out,’ calling him names and wanting to fight with him,” the charges say. The younger male was talking about his gang affiliation with Down With The Crew and said he was “born” into the gang instead of being “sworn” into it and claimed his father started the gang.
The woman told detectives the older man in the Tahoe laughed at the younger man, which appeared to set him off: The younger male pulled his gun and started firing as he walked backward. She said Roberts tried to run around the red car but he was shot in the back and collapsed. Wilson, who was standing between the red car and the woman’s vehicle, “dropped where he stood and died at the scene,” say the charges.
The Tahoe driver drove off, apparently uninjured, though broken glass in the parking lot indicated the vehicle’s rear window had been shot out. He has not been identified.
Another witness at the scene provided a similar account and description of the shooter. That witness also noted the shooter was armed with a handgun with an extended magazine.
That same day, a Seattle police homicide detective was contacted by two different sources who identified Fletcher as the shooter and one of them directed the detective to Fletcher’s Facebook page, according to the charges. The female eyewitness later picked Fletcher’s photo out of a police photo montage, say the charges.
Detectives learned Fletcher had exchanged messages with one of Wilson’s relatives referencing the shootings, with Fletcher responding to an accusation that he “killed the homies” by writing, “ain’t no disrespecting my pops,” according to charging papers.
Seattle police tracked Fletcher to his Federal Way apartment and to an inn in Fife, but did not locate him.
Down With The Crew — also known as Down Wit The Crew — is a Seattle street gang that’s long been associated with the intersection of 53rd Avenue South and South Henderson Street in Rainier Valley. According to Northwest Gangs, which documents gangs around the region, Down Wit The Crew was founded by a man who died in 1986 — 15 years before Fletcher was born.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified shooting victim Christopher Roberts as a junior. Roberts also went by his middle name, De’Andre, instead of Christopher.