King County prosecutors have charged one of three men suspected of committing a drug rip-off in July in Seattle’s Roosevelt neighborhood that led to the shooting death of a 21-year-old man.
Arrested Oct. 5 near Third Avenue and Pike Street in downtown Seattle, Justin Willis, 21, was charged with premeditated first-degree murder on Thursday and remains jailed in lieu of $2 million bail, jail and court records show.
Willis, whose last known address is in Renton, is accused of conspiring with two unnamed accomplices to rob and kill 21-year-old Tashi Dhondup, who the charges allege illegally sold oxycodone pills.
Dhondup’s July 23 shooting death in the 1000 block of Northeast 63rd Street was part of a “multiday armed crime spree” by the three men, who met downtown sometime in July after Willis bought Percocet from the other two and the trio decided to hang out together, according to charging papers.
“In this case, the defendant and two accomplices set up a meeting with the victim purportedly to buy drugs from him … (and) formulated a plan to rob and kill the victim,” Senior Deputy Prosecutor Jennifer Petersen wrote in the charges, noting Willis’ role was to get inside a car and discuss the transaction with Dhondup. “As the defendant and victim sat in the victim’s car, the defendant’s accomplice opened the door and shot the unarmed victim multiple times.”
Willis is to be arraigned Oct. 21. Court records do not yet indicate which attorney is representing him.
Several people called 911 around 9:45 p.m. on July 23 and reported hearing gunshots and relayed to police that a man had been shot inside a blue Nissan. Responding officers pulled Dhondup from the car but he died at the scene. Police recovered multiple cartridge casings and fired slugs from inside the car, along with approximately 1,000 oxycodone pills.
Based on witness statements and video surveillance footage from a nearby ATM, police tied the shooting suspects to a gray Honda Civic Zipcar, that was seen parked in an alley east of the shooting. Two men were seen getting out of the car and walking in the direction of Dhondup’s car before running back to the Civic 2 minutes later and driving off, the charges say.
Dhondup’s cellphone records show he had been communicating with Willis for about 1½ hours, with their last message exchange occurring 4 minutes before the fatal shooting.
GPS tracking information from the suspects’ Zipcar show it traveled to a parking lot in Pioneer Square, where video surveillance footage showed the driver and a passenger discard items onto a garbage pile, the charges say. About four hours after the shooting, the Zipcar drove to a North Seattle gas station, where video footage captured three men enter a store and buy beverages, the charges say.
The Zipcar was returned to a reserved space in the 1000 block of Denny Way around 1 a.m. on July 25, say the charges, which note that Willis’ fingerprints were found on the exterior of one of the car’s windows after it was impounded and searched by Seattle police.
During the investigation, police learned casings found at the Roosevelt homicide scene matched a casing found following a shooting on July 21 in an alley near Second Avenue and Pike Street. Video footage showed three men — all wearing distinctive tennis shoes consistent with the footwear worn by the three men in the later gas station footage — got into a confrontation with an unidentified victim and one of the suspects fired at the man but did not hit him.