A sales receipt from an automotive-supply store found in the parking lot where two men were fatally shot enabled King County sheriff’s detectives to identify Merle “Chucky” Buchanan as the suspected gunman.
A 26-year-old Auburn man turned himself in to police after evading arrest for nearly two months for allegedly gunning down two men in the parking lot of a White Center cafe in January.
Merle “Chucky” Buchanan was charged Monday with two counts of second-degree murder for allegedly shooting two “relative strangers” — Paul Tapia, 45, and Jose Garcia Jr., 51 — early Jan. 6 outside the Taradise Cafe, according to King County prosecutors. Buchanan, whose criminal history bars him from possessing firearms, was also charged with second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm, court records show.
Additionally, Buchanan was charged with felony violation of a domestic-violence protection order for allegedly backhanding his estranged girlfriend in the face a couple hours before the fatal shooting, according to jail and court records. He was booked into the King County Jail on Friday, where he is being held in lieu of $1.1 million bail.
King County sheriff’s Sgt. Ryan Abbott confirmed Buchanan surrendered Friday but couldn’t provide details of his arrest.
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Just before 10 p.m. Jan. 5, Buchanan’s former girlfriend called 911 and reported she’d been assaulted by Buchanan as he drove her home from a party, charging papers say. A protection order was issued last year after Buchanan pleaded guilty to assaulting the woman in 2016, say the charges.
A little after 11 p.m., Buchanan arrived at the Taradise Cafe, in the 9800 block of 16th Avenue Southwest in White Center, according to the charges. Cafe employees later told sheriff’s detectives that Buchanan is a semiregular who keeps to himself and always pays with cash, the charges say.
Tapia and Garcia, who were co-workers, arrived 1½ hours after Buchanan. Soon after, Tapia was told to leave because he was intoxicated, according to charging papers.
“After Tapia was ejected from the bar, surveillance video depicts what appeared to be a friendly conversation between Tapia and the suspect just outside the bar doors,” the charges say.
The two men walked to Buchanan’s red Toyota Camry and Garcia then left the bar and followed them, say charging papers. Tapia and Buchanan lingered by the car for about 15 minutes as Garcia loitered nearby, apparently waiting for Tapia.
At 1 a.m., video-surveillance footage showed Buchanan shooting Tapia once in the face before shooting Garcia in the head before driving away, the charges say.
A sales receipt from an automotive-supply store with Buchanan’s name on it was found at the shooting scene, and detectives were able to match photographs of Buchanan to the shooter seen in the surveillance footage, say charging papers.
The charges do not mention a possible motive.
The Taradise Cafe was the scene of another fatal shooting in May.
Two women got into a fight inside the bar’s bathroom and the fight spilled out into the street. James Little Jr., 30, went to talk to one of the women outside when another man wearing a hoodie walked up to him and shot him in the head.
Billy Dawayne Williams, 30, of Albany, Oregon, was charged with first-degree murder, and a warrant has been issued for his arrest.