A man accused of killing four people in 2014 in a self-proclaimed “jihad” to avenge U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East has been brought back to Seattle to face three aggravated first-degree murder charges here, after receiving a life sentence in New Jersey for one murder.
Ali Muhammad Brown, now 34, was booked into the King County Jail on Wednesday afternoon. The former Seattle resident pleaded guilty in March 2018 to the ambush killing of New Jersey college student Brendan Tevlin and was sentenced a month later to life in prison without parole. He had been sentenced to 35 years for a New Jersey armed robbery committed before he killed Tevlin, 19, outside Newark.
Tevlin’s June 25, 2014, slaying came a couple of months after the killings here, in which prosecutors say Brown gunned down one man in Skyway and two in Seattle.
A date for Brown’s arraignment hasn’t been set but is expected in the next couple of weeks. His extradition from New Jersey required an executive agreement between New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee. Once the Seattle case against Brown is resolved, he’ll be returned to New Jersey to serve out his life sentence, said a spokesman for King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg.
The only possible sentence for aggravated first-degree murder in Washington is life in prison without the possibility of release. In February 2014, Inslee imposed a moratorium on carrying out the death penalty. After Brown was charged that summer with three counts of aggravated first-degree murder, Satterberg announced his office would not seek the death penalty in Brown’s case. The Washington State Supreme Court unanimously struck down the death penalty as unconstitutional in October 2018, ruling the state’s 37-year-old capital-punishment law is “invalid because it is imposed in an arbitrary and racially biased manner.”
Defense attorney Gary Davis, who is representing Brown here, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
King County prosecutors have said Brown characterized himself as a strict Muslim who became angry at the deaths of civilians and children during U.S. involvement in Iraq, Iran, Syria and Afghanistan.
“The defendant was on a bloody crusade, executing four innocent men … with the same murder weapon, over the course of approximately two months, and all under the common and single scheme of exacting ‘vengeance’ against the United States government for its foreign policies,” prosecutors wrote in court documents.
On April 27, 2014, Leroy Henderson, 30, was walking home from a Skyway store when he was shot at least six times in the back by Brown, who was driving his former girlfriend’s SUV and carrying her 9-mm handgun that he’d stolen from her Tacoma apartment, according to criminal charges filed by King County prosecutors.
But Brown wasn’t identified as a suspect in Henderson’s homicide until weeks later, after he had killed Dwone Anderson-Young, 23, and Ahmed Said, 27, the charges say.
The two young men had met up with friends at R Place, a gay club on Capitol Hill, on June 1, 2014. Said had been communicating with Brown on a gay social-networking app, then connected with Brown outside the club that night, according to the charges. Said offered to drive Anderson-Young home and he and Brown got into Said’s car.
At the end of the 17-minute drive to Anderson-Young’s house in Leschi, Brown shot both men multiple times inside the car, the charges say.
Brown reportedly said he killed Anderson-Young and Said because he believed they were gay.
He fled to New Jersey on a Greyhound bus two days later.
Then on June 25, 2014, Brown shot Tevlin as his car was stopped at a traffic light in West Orange, a few miles from Newark.
Brown, who has prior criminal convictions, was identified from a palm print left on a window of Said’s car, according to the charges. Police in Seattle and in New Jersey matched bullets and shell casings from the three homicide scenes to the 9-mm handgun that was in Brown’s possession when he was arrested in New Jersey on July 18, 2014.
In July 2014, Seattle police and King County sheriff’s detectives traveled to New Jersey and interviewed Brown at the Essex County Detention Center, the charges say. Police say Brown claimed all four killings were committed for vengeance against the U.S. — and he considered them each to be a “just kill” because he targeted adult men who were not in the company of a woman, child or elderly person, according to charging papers.
The charges note the killings share common circumstances: “All the victims were male (no women or children present), all were shot late at night in quiet locations and all were shot multiple times and under circumstances that essentially amount to execution.”
In charges filed here, Brown is quoted as telling detectives: “All these lives are taken every single day by America, by this government. So a life for a life.”
“Those 4 murders that we’re talking about were all done for vengeance for the actions of the United States in the Middle East?” one detective asked.
“Yes,” Brown responded, according the charges.
“Are you taking responsibility for that?” the same detective asked.
“Just doing my small part,” said Brown.