King County prosecutors charged a man Thursday with crashing a van into a busy Ross Dress for Less store in Burien while under the influence and injuring 10 people, including a 2-year-old boy whose heart stopped.
Prosecutors believe Lee Russell Skelly, 51, was under the influence of methamphetamine when he crashed into the store Monday, according to charging documents. He was charged with four counts of vehicular assault while under the influence, as well as reckless endangerment, reckless driving and driving with a suspended or revoked license in the third degree.
He remains in King County Jail in lieu of $500,000 bail, according to jail records.
The clothing store was “bustling with holiday shoppers” when Skelly backed into a parking spot outside around 8 p.m., prosecutors said. When his passenger, who officers believe stole items from the store, returned to the van about an hour later, Skelly started to pull out quickly. He appeared to swerve to avoid hitting a car in front of him, then crashed into a parked car and drove into the store. The man’s passenger told King County sheriff’s deputies she yelled at him to stop, but that he kept driving.
“He plowed approximately 40 feet through people, strollers, the check-out section, and display cabinets before coming to rest on top of a toddler that had been thrown out of his stroller at the very front of the store,” senior deputy prosecuting attorney Amy Freedheim wrote in charges.
The 2-year-old wasn’t breathing and had no pulse when first-responders arrived but was revived. He suffered life-threatening injuries including leg fractures, a pelvic fracture and a liver laceration, according to charges.
The boy was in serious condition at Harborview Medical Center Thursday along with his 47-year-old grandfather, who was in satisfactory condition, according to a hospital spokesman. The grandfather suffered a broken leg and closed-head injury.
A 21-year-old store employee suffered a broken leg and underwent surgery at Harborview, but has since been discharged. And a 28-year-old who suffered a broken leg and shattered knee cap was told he will have a permanent limp, according to charges. Six other people were sent to hospitals with minor injuries, including an 8-month-old and an 11-year-old. Officials initially had said 11 people were injured in the crash, but later revised that number to 10.
Deputies said Skelly told them he used methamphetamine, and a drug-recognition officer noticed several signs of impairment from a stimulant drug, according to charges. The results of toxicology tests are pending. Deputies said they found a mini blow torch on the floor board of the van.
The woman in his car was arrested on a bench warrant out of Seattle Municipal Court for failing to appear on a theft charge.
Skelly has previous traffic-related convictions on his record, including driving with a suspended license, driving without insurance and impeding traffic, according to prosecutors.
He also pleaded guilty to first-degree theft in 2014 for his involvement in a large copper-theft operation, in which 4.3 miles of copper wiring from the Sound Transit light-rail system was stolen.
Skelly will next appear in court on Jan. 2.