Federal Way Mayor Jim Ferrell wants to see a coordinated response to rising violent crime in South King County cities and has called on mayors, police and county officials to convene a joint meeting to come up with a plan.
Ferrell posted a statement on Facebook on Monday, a day after Kent Mayor Dana Ralph said in a statement that she had reached out to King County Executive Dow Constantine, Prosecutor Dan Satterberg and officials with the Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention to address gun violence at Pacific Highway South and Kent-Des Moines Road.
A man was found fatally shot at a bus stop near the intersection Friday afternoon and another man, who was attending a vigil for the victim, was wounded in a separate shooting in the area Saturday evening, according to Kent police.
The King County Medical Examiner’s Office on Monday identified the man who was killed Friday as Antonio Wells, 39, and determined he died from multiple gunshot wounds. His death was ruled a homicide.
Chase Gallagher, a spokesperson for Constantine, said he hadn’t seen Ferrell’s statement but confirmed the executive’s office has been in touch with Ralph about her concerns. Conversations are in early stages, and a timeline for a meeting hasn’t been decided yet.
“We have agreed to help convene a meeting with relevant county staff. Nothing further at this time, but we are continuing to discuss with the mayor and the City of Kent how our jurisdictions can work together on this issue,” Gallagher said in an email statement.
In her statement, which was also posted on Facebook, Ralph said the recent shootings along Pacific Highway in Kent’s West Hill neighborhood have residents and business owners concerned.
“This violence that touches every part of our community is unacceptable. These shootings are not random and are linked to bad actors,” Ralph said in the statement, advocating for a “rigorous, system-wide approach to put an end to this violence.”
Ferrell, also citing what he called “the unacceptable rise in crime and violence” in Federal Way and its neighboring cities, said he’s reached out to officials in Kent, Auburn, Renton, Tukwila, SeaTac and Des Moines. Collectively, they intend to contact the executive and prosecutor’s offices, jail officials and others “to address the rise in crime and bring those committing crime to justice,” according to his statement.
Additionally, Federal Way intends to convene a retail safety summit to address crimes like shoplifting, car theft and burglary.
“We will not sit by while criminals take advantage of weakened drug laws, lack of prosecutions and unnecessary restrictions caused by newly passed legislation,” Ferrell’s statement says, adding the city intends to advocate for ways to strengthen public safety laws during the next legislative session.
In February, the state Supreme Court struck down the felony drug possession statute as unconstitutional in a ruling that’s come to be known as the Blake decision. The Legislature later made possession of drugs like methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine a gross misdemeanor, though possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance remains a felony.
Ferrell’s reference to “unnecessary restrictions” presumably refers to a massive police-reform package of nearly a dozen laws that went into effect in July. The laws cover virtually all aspects of policing, including the background checks officers undergo before they’re hired; when they are authorized to use force and how they collect data about it; and how they might respond — or not — to active crime scenes, welfare checks and mental health crises.
As for the “lack of prosecutions” included in Ferrell’s statement, Casey McNerthney, a spokesperson for Satterberg, said prosecutors file 20 to 30 felony cases in King County Superior Court every day and charge “armed drug dealers every week.”
In a one-day snapshot of felony cases filed on Nov. 17, 28 defendants were charged with crimes like rape, burglary, assault, indecent exposure, unlawful possession of a firearm and domestic violence crimes. Of those charged, 22 had multiple previous convictions, he said.
So far this year, prosecutors have charged defendants in 79 murder or manslaughter cases, compared with 92 in all of 2020 and 76 in 2019, McNerthney said. He also pointed to the prosecutor’s office’s Shots Fired Project, which tracks shootings across King County, whether they result in death or injury or not.
“Of course we’re open to meet with folks,” McNerthney said in response to Ralph and Ferrell’s calls for a collective approach to addressing violent crime.
A team of senior deputy prosecutors take turns responding to homicide and serious injury scenes and were present at the most recent shooting scenes in Kent last weekend, he said. Prosecutors are monitoring ongoing investigations by police “and will certainly look at them urgently” when cases are referred for a charging decision, McNerthney said.