When Seattle police officers responded to a report of gunfire in South Park earlier this month, they found a house on South Donovan Street where there appeared to be several bullet holes in a front window and along the front wall, according to King County prosecutors.
The officers got the attention of a woman they spotted in an upstairs window. After she came downstairs to talk to them, she went to wake her father, who was asleep on a couch in the front room. The officers soon realized the man was unresponsive and started CPR, but he died at the scene from two gunshot wounds to the back, police and prosecutors say.
Killed was Sam Nang Lam, a 56-year-old husband and father who came to the U.S. from Vietnam, according to the King County Medical Examiner’s Office and Lam’s obituary.
This week, prosecutors charged Julio Cruz-Velazquez, a 25-year-old Kent man, with first-degree murder in Lam’s death, alleging the circumstances of the crime manifested an extreme indifference to human life. Additionally, Cruz-Velzaquez — who was charged last year with second-degree rape but later pleaded guilty to second-degree assault and was sentenced to nine months in jail — was charged with first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm, court records show. He was under the supervision of the state Department of Corrections (DOC) at the time Lam was killed.
Cruz-Velazquez, who goes by the street name “Chunks,” was arrested during a traffic stop on Nov. 7, four days after Lam was killed. He remains jailed in lieu of $2 million bail, jail records show.
“In the present case, the defendant, apparently intoxicated and after getting into some sort of disagreement with the victim’s neighbor, fired a gun at least 12 times into the victim’s home while the victim attempted to sleep on the living room couch,” Senior Deputy Prosecutor John Castleton wrote in charging papers. “The victim in this case was completely innocent and killed as a result of the defendant’s intentional choice to fire a gun in an extremely reckless and ultimately fatal manner.”
According to the charges:
After Seattle police found Lam dead at his house in the 1000 block of South Donovan Street around 1:40 a.m. on Nov. 3, detectives learned from Lam’s next-door neighbors that a man they identified as “Chunks” had shown up at their house an hour earlier — apparently trying to buy methamphetamine — but left when told the man he’d come to see was sleeping. The neighbors’ house had been shot up before and detectives believe that house was the intended target of the shooting.
Detectives found five fired shell casings from a 9 mm handgun in the street in front of Lam’s house. Another neighbor told officers he heard gunshots and ran to his front window, which faces South Donovan Street, and saw a black pickup driving east toward 12th Avenue South. Down the block, another neighbor flagged down an officer and reported seeing a dark-colored pickup speeding from South Donovan Street and turning onto 14th Avenue South, the charges say.
A bulletin about the homicide was sent to the entire Seattle police department, and two officers separately identified Cruz-Velazquez as the man known as “Chunks,” according to the charges.
Police searched the neighborhood for video-surveillance footage from homes and businesses, and found four locations with exterior cameras that captured footage of a black pickup truck, the only vehicle of its kind seen in the area immediately before and after the shooting at Lam’s house. Detectives quickly learned Cruz-Velazquez is the registered owner of a black 2000 Toyota Tundra and got his address in Kent from his DOC community corrections officer, the charges say.
When detectives showed up at Cruz-Velazquez’ apartment complex, they spotted his pickup in the parking lot and followed it after confirming Cruz-Velazquez was behind the wheel. When the vehicle was stopped, detectives saw a fired bullet casing sitting straight up between the hood and windshield; through the driver’s window, they also spotted three more casings on the floorboard.
Those shell casings were later matched to the five casings found on the street outside Lam’s house, the charges say.