Federal Way police are “prioritizing all of our resources” to solve shootings that have left three men dead since Monday, the police chief says.
Last week, Frank Cohens Jr. took his 3-year-old son, also named Frank, to get a hair cut and then texted a photograph to his father in Portland.
“The last time we talked was last Thursday. He sent me a picture of him and Little Frank at the barbershop,” Frank Cohens Sr. said in a phone interview Wednesday.
Cohens Jr., 27, is one of three men who were fatally shot in Federal Way within a span of 48 hours this week, an unprecedented string of homicides in the city of roughly 90,000 residents.
“As a community, we’ve never faced three homicides in such a short duration,” Federal Way Police Chief Andy Hwang said at a news conference Wednesday to discuss what he called an “obvious uptick” in gun violence in the city.
Police are desperate for the public’s help because detectives don’t have any suspect descriptions or video-surveillance footage to work with, nor are there any connections between the three victims, Hwang said. Anonymous tips can be emailed through the website, safecityfw.com.
Asked whether the shootings could be part of a gang initiation or ongoing gang retaliation, Hwang responded that his detectives “are not excluding anything at this point.”
All three shootings happened late at night or early in the morning “and the perpetrators are moving around in the dark,” the chief said.
He urged residents to take extra safety precautions by keeping doors locked, calling 911 to report any suspicious activity, and avoiding going out on foot at night, particularly in secluded areas or near bike and running trails.
Hwang and Mayor Jim Ferrell announced Wednesday they are increasing the number of nighttime police patrols, saying officers will be far more visible on the streets. Police will also be shifting officers from specialty assignments to the patrol division and creating an additional five-member squad of detectives to help with the investigations.
A community meeting is scheduled for Thursday at 7 p.m. in council chambers at Federal Way City Hall, 33325 Eighth Ave. S., to discuss the recent spate of violence.
The city, which covers 23 square miles and employs 124 police officers, has averaged three or four homicides a year over the past two decades, Hwang said.
But there have been five homicides in Federal Way in the first five months of this year, he said.
The fatal shootings occurred at:
• 1:01 a.m. Monday: Alex J. Kelley, 26, of Seattle, was smoking on a porch when he was killed at a Federal Way apartment complex in the 1300 block of Southwest Campus Drive. He died from a gunshot wound to the torso.
• 12:17 a.m. Tuesday: Cohens Jr., a Tacoma man, was found slumped over in a parked car in the 2200 block of South 333rd Street. He died from multiple gunshot wounds, according to investigators.
In addition, a fourth shooting occurred at 9 a.m. Monday when a 21-year-old man was wounded in the 3000 block of South 288th Street. Hwang said the shooting was accidental.
While Hwang said there is evidence of “drug dealing or drug activity” in Cohens’ slaying, detectives haven’t found any sign that the other two victims were involved in criminal activity at the time of their deaths.
Frank Cohens Sr., 65, doesn’t believe his son was involved in drugs.
“To me, it sounds like a setup. It had to be somebody he knew to get him to park in the dark like he did, on a dead-end street,” the father said of his son, who grew up in Everett. “I don’t have the slightest idea of why he was up there.
“My son was a beautiful person. He was a working man” who drove a forklift for a living and was dedicated to his fiancé and their two young children, Cohens Sr. said.
In addition to the three men killed in Federal Way this week, two teenagers were fatally shot in separate incidents in February and April.
On Feb. 13, 16-year-old Wesley Gennings was shot in the back of the head during a marijuana robbery while seated in his car in the Taco Bell parking lot at 2130 S.W. Campus Dr. Michael Rogers, 16, has been charged as an adult with first-degree murder and prosecutors are seeking to have the 14-year-old accused gunman, also charged with first-degree murder, tried as an adult.
Jeffrey McLaren Jr., 19, was found fatally shot April 3 at The Cove Apartments, 33131 First Ave. S.W., about two months after he was involved in a deadly shooting.
According to a search warrant, McLaren had fatally shot Dylan Lee Oman, 18, in Tacoma in January after Oman tried to shoot McLaren in an “ambush-style attack.” McLaren fired first, and Pierce County prosecutors determined he acted in self-defense and was not charged.
Correction: Information in this article, originally published May, 11, 2016, was corrected May 13, 2016. A previous version of this story incorrectly identified Annette Oliver in a photo with Frank Cohens Jr.