Doug Weable, a K-9 officer with the Des Moines Police Department, had just gotten off work and was on his way to buy dog food when a man flagged him down in his patrol vehicle last week and told him someone had been shot just south of a bus stop on Pacific Highway South, south of Kent Des Moines Road.
It turned out five people had been shot and a sixth had been hit by a ricochet but didn’t require medical care.
As several men continued fighting in the middle of the highway, Weable called over his police radio for help, then ripped the shirt off a 15-year-old boy — the most critically injured, with a gunshot wound to his lower back. As Weable applied a chest seal to the first boy, he directed a bystander to move a second victim, a 16-year-old boy who had been shot in the chest, onto his side to aid his breathing.
Weable was flagged down just before 6 p.m. on July 13 and additional officers arrived soon after and found the other gunshot victims.
Weable didn’t learn until later that the two teenagers and two other victims — one man who was shot in the hip and another shot in the wrist — are brothers. Another victim, a 49-year-old man, was found around the corner with a gunshot wound through his right thigh.
Weable and Des Moines police Officers Johnny Tyler and Shay LaMarsh, who also responded to the shooting scene that falls within Kent city limits, returned to the bus stop Tuesday and recounted how their advanced medical training helped them ensure the victims survived long enough to make it to Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center.
Faded bloodstains could still be seen on the pavement where Weable treated the 15-year-old.
Weable is a former member and Tyler and LaMarsh are current members of the Valley SWAT team, a regional tactical unit comprised of police officers from Des Moines, Kent, Auburn, Renton, Federal Way, Tukwila and the Port of Seattle Police Department.
They’ve all trained in combat first aid alongside Army Rangers and Special Forces medics at Joint Base Lewis McChord. Weable said he used that training to triage the gunshot victims before the first King County Medic One units arrived minutes later.
LaMarsh was driving home on Interstate 5 when he heard Weable’s call over the police radio.
“Doug called out that he was flagged down and had multiple people shot and there were people still actively fighting,” said LaMarsh, who arrived at the scene 6 minutes later. “You could hear it in his voice — he needed other (officers) there immediately.”
Jarod Kasner, Kent’s assistant police chief, credited the Des Moines officers with saving the life of the 15-year-old, who according to police reports didn’t have a pulse but was brought back with CPR administered by a medic while LaMarsh pumped air into his lungs.
“Our agencies routinely work closely together and we share a border. The fact we have officers trained to administer combat first aid is huge. It not only helps our officers, but the community,” Kasner said.
As of Tuesday, the 15-year-old remained in serious condition in the intensive care unit at Harborview, said hospital spokesperson Susan Gregg. The 16-year-old was discharged late last week and the 49-year-old gunshot victim was treated and released, she said. Gregg wasn’t immediately able to determine the status of the two other victims.
According to Kasner, the investigation is ongoing, and though three men were briefly detained at the scene, the gunman has not been arrested. From what detectives have learned, he said the shooting victims encountered a second group of people near the bus stop in the 23200 block of Pacific Highway South, though it’s still unclear how many people were in the second group.
“It was a verbal disagreement that escalated to shots being fired and striking that group of six,” said Kasner, noting four of the victims are brothers, ages 15 to 23.
He doesn’t know how the brothers are connected to the two other victims but said evidence at the scene indicated there was only one shooter.
Tyler, who got to the scene three minutes after Weable, applied a chest seal to the 16-year-old’s wound, tied a tourniquet around a man’s forearm, then ran to treat the 49-year-old, cutting off the man’s sweatpants and applying a tourniquet to his thigh.
Medics treated the victim shot in the hip, Weable said.
Sgt. Patti Richards stayed with the 16-year-old victim and held his hand.
“I could tell he was young and scared,” and he was worried about his younger brother, she said. “When Kent (officers) got here, it was still total chaos. You could hear the sirens coming. Kent was able to deal with the crime scene while we were dealing with the people who were shot.”
King County Medic One Senior Medic Rick Arnone and his partner took over care of the 16-year-old and inserted a breathing tube into his throat before driving him to Harborview.
“It makes my job exponentially easier and means my patient is alive,” Arnone said of having police officers trained in combat first aid.
It can take 8 to 9 minutes for a medic unit to arrive at a shooting scene, while officers “can be seconds away,” he said. “Every medical treatment that patient receives increases their survivability and having medical care at the point of injury is very important.”
Richards said having Weable, Tyler and LaMarsh at the scene that day was serendipitous.
“Not everybody wants to do this level of first aid … but this training is vital,” she said. “This was the right people at the right place at the right time.”