Two 17-year-old suspected gang members were arrested in connection with the death of a woman who was killed by a stray bullet during a drive-by shooting in Burien.
An ongoing war between rival Hispanic street gangs claimed its latest victim Wednesday afternoon when a spray of gunfire from an SUV sent a stray bullet through the plate-glass window of a Burien chiropractor’s office, killing a 51-year-old office manager.
Roughly six hours later, a King County Sheriff’s SWAT team arrested two 17-year-old males outside a Burien coffee shop after they were tailed by undercover detectives when they left one of the teen’s apartments, sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Ryan Abbott said.
“This poor, innocent lady was just working. It’s heartbreaking,” he said of the victim, who died at the scene.
She has been identified by friends and family as Gabriela D. Reyes, a religious mother and grandmother, known for her kindness and work on social-justice causes.
Reyes worked for 18 years at One Source Health Center at 15217 First Ave. S., which occupies a one-story, blue building surrounded by fast-food outlets and automotive-repair shops.
She was on staff when Dr. Kyle Osborne purchased the practice 2 ½ years ago.
“She was the matriarch of the clinic. She took care of everyone,” Osborne said. “She treated the clinic like her own and all the patients and staff like family.”
Osborne left the clinic with his 5-year-old daughter about 15 minutes before the 2:45 p.m. shooting. He was driving home when he received a text message from one of the clinic’s chiropractors, telling him to come back because Reyes had been shot.
“Gabriela was unconscious, but she still held a pulse,” Osborne said Thursday.
At the time of the shooting, three women had been seated at the clinic’s front counter, and Reyes was the employee sitting closest to the window, he said.
As Osborne began making his way to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, he received another text notifying him that Reyes had died.
Her traumatized co-workers were quickly joined by a group of people who gathered outside and “a flood of family members came in sobbing,” Osborne said.
According to Abbott, a 39-year-old man and his 15-year-old son were walking west on South 152nd Street from Highline High School and were approaching First Avenue South when they were fired upon by two shooters in an SUV.
He estimated at least 10 shots were fired, shattering the windows of a parked van, crossing four lanes of traffic and embedding into buildings on the west side of First Avenue South, including the office where Reyes worked.
The 39-year-old man, a veteran “OG” or “original gangster” in a rival gang, was the intended target, Abbott said. He and his son ran from the gunfire but remained at the scene and cooperated with detectives, he said. Neither was hit.
The Seattle Times typically does not identify individual street gangs by name to discourage them from gaining credibility or notoriety.
“There was ‘a look’ as they call it,” Abbott said, using air quotes to describe a visual exchange between the 39-year-old and the individuals in the SUV that preceded the shooting. “Their shots are everywhere. They were just spraying.”
After the shooting, detectives quickly began interviewing people and collecting video-surveillance footage, leading them to the two 17-year-old boys who are well known to police, Abbott said. Detectives went to one of the teen’s last known address, where they found the suspect’s vehicle parked outside in the 12200 block of Ambaum Boulevard Southwest.
When the two suspects drove off, they were followed by police and arrested just after 8 p.m. outside Burien Bigfoot Java, Abbott said.
The teens are expected to make their first court appearance Friday, according to King County prosecutors.
Miriam Gomez was sobbing when she arrived back at the clinic Thursday after witnessing her longtime friend and co-worker get shot. Gomez and Reyes had worked side by side for 14 years and ate lunch together every day.
“I have an image in my head, and I don’t want to talk about it,” said Gomez, too distraught to describe what happened.
With three grown sons, Reyes was very close to her family and regularly drove her grandchildren to gymnastics and swim classes, Gomez said. She was dedicated to the clinic’s patients and mentored the other women who worked there, including her niece and Gomez’s 21-year-old daughter.
Burien Mayor Jimmy Matta said he knew the victim to be an active member of the community, involved in a variety of social issues, who often volunteered as a Spanish and English translator.
A telephone call to the Reyes home was answered by a woman who identified herself as a daughter-in-law and said that the family was not speaking at this point.
A candlelight vigil was planned for 7 p.m. Thursday at One Source Health Center. A memorial of flowers and candles grew throughout the day beneath the unbroken front window, on the opposite side of the door from where a single bullet hole punctured the glass.
The suspects arrested Wednesday night are members of a gang involved in a series of shootings targeting rival gang members, including the deaths of Eveone Cortez, 19, and Elizabeth Juarez, 13, at the Alturas @ Burien apartment complex in March. No suspects have been arrested in connection with the double homicide.
The rival gangs have been warring for well over a year and were involved in back-to-back fatal shootings in April 2017 in Federal Way and Burien, and have been linked to drive-by shootings in Seattle, court records show.
King County Undersheriff Scott Somers said the ongoing feud always seemed to come down to the same things: Fights over turf and perceived slights and insults.
He estimated that each shooting costs the sheriff’s office $500,000 to investigate. Under the leadership of Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht, the sheriff’s office is using existing resources to work with youth and families to try to steer young people away from the gang life and is trying to garner support for a regional gang task force with police agencies across South King County, Somers said.
He couldn’t provide a dollar amount but said Johanknecht has met with County Executive Dow Constantine about including money for a regional gang task force in the next budget.
“It’s cyclical. There are ebbs and flows in gang activity, and they respond to our responses,” Somers said. “There are certain people that it doesn’t matter what I do — they’re going to make choices that put the community in danger.”
Seattle Times staff reporter Agueda Pacheco-Flores and news researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this story.