King County prosecutors charged a 44-year-old SeaTac man with three counts of first-degree murder and two counts of first-degree assault, accusing him of firing into a large crowd outside a Des Moines bar in September, killing three people and injuring two others.
In charging Joshua Puloka, who is also known as Joshua Everybodytalksabout, in the shooting deaths of two men and one woman, prosecutors accused him of firing multiple rounds “under circumstances manifesting an extreme indifference to human life.”
Senior Deputy Prosecutor Jennifer Petersen noted in charging documents that Puloka had killed two other men in separate shootings years before allegedly shooting the five Des Moines victims. In those cases, he was identified as Joshua Everybodytalksabout.
Killed in the Sept. 26 shooting outside La Familia Sports Pub and Lounge were Angelia Hylton, 46, Antoine Matthews, 32, and Ezra Taylor, 26. Hylton and Taylor both lived in Renton, family members previously told The Seattle Times. Matthews’ city of residence is unknown.
Puloka is also accused of shooting and injuring two men, ages 48 and 27, who are expected to survive, though one of them is still being treated at Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center, charging papers say.
Puloka has a lengthy criminal history and is facing a potential life sentence if convicted on the murder and assault charges, with each of the five charges also carrying a firearm enhancement, court records show. As a felon, Puloka can’t legally possess guns and is also charged in the Des Moines case with first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm.
Puloka turned himself in to Des Moines police on Monday and was booked into the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent, according to police and jail records.
At his first court appearance on Tuesday, a King County District Court judge set Puloka’s bail at $1 million, despite finding the state had met its burden in presenting clear evidence of Puloka’s propensity for violence, charging papers say.
Under state law, bail can be denied to criminal defendants facing possible life sentences who have demonstrated a propensity for violence and represent a substantial likelihood of danger the community.
A superior court judge on Thursday granted a motion by the state to hold Puloka in jail without bail as he awaits trial, according to a prosecutor’s spokesperson. Puloka’s defense attorney did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
Preceding the deadly gunfire at La Familia, a 40-year-old man suffered significant facial injuries in a fight with a 32-year-old man. The 32-year-old has been identified by Des Moines police as a suspect but he currently remains at large, the charges against Puloka say. A 34-year-old woman also suffered a gunshot wound to the leg, but it is not clear in charging documents who is suspected of shooting her.
Originally charged with second-degree murder in 1999, Puloka later pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter, admitting he tried to rob a man of two kilos of cocaine and shot the man as he attempted to flee. Puloka was sentenced to nearly 8 years in prison in that case, Petersen wrote.
In December 2014, Puloka was charged with second-degree murder and first-degree assault for a shooting outside a Georgetown motorcycle club. He claimed self-defense and was acquitted by a jury on the murder charge, but was found guilty of third-degree assault and first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm, according to Petersen. He was sentenced in 2018 to 4½ years in prison.
Just before 2 a.m. on Sept. 26, Des Moines police officers responded to La Familia in the 22800 block of Pacific Highway South and encountered “a very chaotic scene with a large crowd of people,” prompting officers to request help from several neighboring police agencies due to the number of victims and crowd size, charging papers say.
At the scene, police found Matthews on the ground in the southbound HOV lane of Pacific Highway South, just east of the bar. Medics attempted to treat him but due to the crowd, they took him to a nearby fire station for further treatment, where he died, say the charges.
Taylor was found in La Familia’s parking lot with a gunshot wound to the back of his head and medics took him to Harborview, where he died during surgery.
Hylton, who was shot in the back, was loaded into a passing vehicle and was driven to Valley Medical Center in Renton, where she also died during surgery.
Police located a 27-year-old man with a gunshot wound to the groin in La Familia’s parking lot and a 48-year-old man with a gunshot wound to the abdomen in the lobby of the Red Lion Inn, located next door to the bar, according to the charges. Both were taken to Harborview.
Also taken to Harborview was the 40-year-old assault victim, who suffered facial fractures, and the 34-year-old woman who was shot in the leg.
During the investigation, which included reviewing video-surveillance footage from the bar and a witness’ video of the shootings, police determined the 40-year-old assault victim got into a confrontation with another man and when he turned his back, the 40-year-old was knocked to the ground and then was repeatedly punched and kicked in the face, charging papers say.
Several other men in the crowd confronted the man who assaulted the 40-year-old and the group moved from the parking lot into the street. Matthews, one of the homicide victims, was seen taking a swing at a man later identified as Puloka, causing Puloka to fall backwards onto the ground, the charges say.
“Almost immediately as he falls, Puloka begins shooting,” a detective wrote in charging papers, adding Puloka continued firing from his position on the ground.
The crowd immediately reacted to the gunfire and people were seen taking cover behind parked cars. Matthews and Hylton were seen falling to the ground in the HOV lane and Taylor fell to the ground in the bar’s parking lot, say the charges. Hylton and Taylor were determined to be bystanders.
“Approximately ten seconds after this gunfire, Puloka runs past the bodies of Matthews and Hylton to the La Familia parking lot, where he gets onto a motorcycle,” the detective wrote, citing the video footage.
Less than a minute later, a second round of multiple gunshots is heard on the video but it does not appear that anyone was struck
Police recovered 31 shell casings from two different caliber firearms at the scene, charging papers say.