Leroy Henderson, who had moved from Indiana to Skyway to care for his uncle, went to the store for chips and grape soda. He was shot 10 times in the back on his walk home.
Ahmed Said and Dwone Anderson-Young were executed five weeks later inside a car after a night out with friends, their bullet-riddled bodies left in the street in Seattle’s Leschi neighborhood.
Their killer — a former Seattle resident who fled to New Jersey, randomly gunned down a young college student and committed a slew of other crimes in June 2014 as part of his self-proclaimed jihad against U.S. policy in the Middle East — was sentenced to life in prison for his East Coast offenses.
After eight long years for the families of the men killed here, Ali Muhammad Brown, 37, was sentenced Friday in King County Superior Court to 93 years in prison for three counts of premeditated first-degree murder, guaranteeing he will die behind bars. He’s to be returned to New Jersey to serve out his sentence there.
Brown pleaded guilty to the Washington murder charges in June.
Senior Deputy Prosecutor John Castleton said Brown randomly shot Henderson, a 30-year-old from Gary, Indiana, on April 27, 2014, “as a test” to see if he could kill for his cause. Castleton said Brown targeted Said, 27, and Anderson-Young, 23, presumably because they were gay.
“As the court is aware, laws are changing all the time. I don’t know what’s happening in New Jersey, [but] I have no certainty those sentences will remain,” Castleton told Judge Jim Rogers as he advocated for a de facto life sentence on the murder charges, even though Brown has already been sentenced to life in prison. “These lives matter.”
Although defense attorney George Eppler encouraged Rogers to have Brown serve his New Jersey and Washington sentences at the same time so “punishment on these savage offenses begins today and not after he’s dead,” the judge instead ordered the sentences be served back-to-back — an apparent future safeguard against his release, should Brown ever be released from custody in New Jersey.
“I’ve been waiting eight years to have my day in court and talk about my son,” said Falana Young, her face streaked with tears as she addressed Rogers while holding a photo of Anderson-Young. “Dwone was so smart, so intelligent … He was wise beyond his years.”
At 14, Anderson-Young told his mother he was gay.
“I said, ‘I don’t care, I love you, you’re my son,'” Young told the judge. “My concern was, ‘You’re Black, you’re male and you’re gay and not everyone is going to accept you’ … and my fear came true.”
Brown created a profile on Grindr, a gay dating app, and was trading messages with Said, who with Anderson-Young and other friends spent the night of May 31, 2014, at R Place, a gay club on Capitol Hill that’s since closed, court records show. Said later offered Brown and Anderson-Young a ride home, and Brown killed the men three doors down from Young’s house, the records say.
“These men were good men. They didn’t even have criminal records,” Young said of Brown’s victims. “Leroy was taking care of his uncle. Said was working two jobs. My son moved home to help me pay for my daughter to go to college … He killed these men and they’re never coming back.”
She said she wasn’t moved by Brown’s traumatic childhood or his claim that he killed for Allah, a claim he has since apparently renounced. Instead, Young accused Brown of killing her son and Said out of his own self-hatred.
Joanne Thornton said Brown “just picked someone out of the clear blue sky to kill” when he shot Henderson, her “little cousin.” She said the uncle Henderson was caring for died a year later, followed a year after that by Henderson’s father, who got sick and lost the will to live after his son’s death.
“If I could kill him, I would kill him myself — he took three innocent lives,” Thornton said of Brown. “Leroy and these other two kids didn’t need to die.”
Brown, who according to his attorneys has been diagnosed as having delusions and post-traumatic stress disorder, spent most of Friday’s two-hour sentencing hearing staring straight ahead. He apologized to his victims’ families, said he was misguided in his pursuit of Islamic jihad and vowed to be a better man.
“I realize deep down inside, I made mistakes. Taking people’s lives and robbing people — all those things are wrong,” Brown said. “I know I’m messed up in my mind a little bit … but I’m still a good person.”
Before handing down his sentence, Rogers expressed sorrow for the victims’ families and the senselessness of the killings. Though he acknowledged Brown’s “horrible childhood,” Rogers said he could not overlook the number and seriousness of Brown’s crimes — and the danger he represents.
“You’re going to be in prison for the rest of your natural life,” Rogers said.