A rolling gunfight on Seattle’s Aurora Avenue North last weekend led to the rescue of a 20-year-old California woman who suffered broken bones and other injuries at the hands of her alleged pimp, say King County prosecutors.
Seattle police on Sunday arrested 30-year-old Winston Burt — known in the “prostitution underworld” as Dice Capone — as he was leaving a six-bedroom Airbnb in South Seattle, where he had been living with at least four women involved in his sex-trafficking enterprise, according to criminal charges filed Wednesday.
Burt, who remains jailed in lieu of $750,000 bail, has been charged with assault, kidnapping, promoting prostitution, human trafficking and drive-by shooting charges stemming from his forced prostitution of four women, all in their early 20s, according to charging papers.
“The defendant leads a sex trafficking enterprise that has operated in at least three U.S. states involving multiple victims, who have been exploited, harmed and maimed by the defendant’s violent and coercive actions,” Senior Deputy Prosecutor Benjamin Gauen wrote in charging papers. “Given the number of crime scenes, potential evidence, number of victims and expansive reach of the defendant’s egregious behavior … [additional] information and criminal charges are likely forthcoming.”
Though the Seattle police investigation “is still in its infancy,” Gauen wrote that Burt required each woman to make $2,000 a day by prostituting on Aurora, “yielding tremendous profits” that reportedly enabled him to purchase real estate, expensive jewelry and luxury cars. It’s unclear whether Burt lives in California or Arizona, where he’s believed to have trafficked the women before bringing them to Seattle last month, according to the charges. He continued to recruit other women once arriving here, the charges say.
At least two of the women — including the 20-year-old from California — have Burt’s alias, “Dice Capone,” tattooed on their faces “to signify that they belong to the defendant,” Gauen wrote.
The 20-year-old, who began prostituting for Burt in September, was beaten and pistol-whipped Nov. 2 when she said she wanted to leave, the charges say. She was trapped in the South Seattle Airbnb for three days without her phone or any money, according to charging papers.
Burt again assaulted the 20-year-old Saturday night and forced her to strip out of the clothes he had bought for her, the charges say. The woman tried to leave out the front door, but after her way was barred, she jumped out of a third-story window to get away, according to the charges.
The 20-year-old hobbled into the street to seek help but was forced into Burt’s Mercedes-Benz and driven to the Emerald Motel on Aurora, where Burt had rented rooms for the women to conduct prostitution “dates,” charging papers say.
After Burt held her at gunpoint inside the Mercedes and threatened to break all her teeth, the woman was able to flee from the car and ended up sitting in the middle of the street, prompting passing drivers to call 911, say the charges, which note that surveillance footage from nearby businesses corroborated the woman’s account.
An Uber driver saw the woman was in distress and told her to jump into his van, the charges say. Burt followed in his Mercedes and began shooting at the fleeing van — and the Uber driver returned fire, according to charging papers.
The rolling gunfight continued for several blocks, prompting multiple people to call 911 shortly before 10 p.m., according to the charges. It does not appear anyone was struck by the gunshots.
The Uber driver drove north to North 145th Street and then onto southbound Interstate 5 before pulling over at a gas station to wait for police and state troopers to arrive, the charges say. The van’s windshield was riddled with bullet holes, and blood was found in the back seat, where the woman had been sitting, the charges say.
The woman was hospitalized and will need to undergo surgery for a broken leg and ankle, the charges say. She also suffered broken ribs, spinal injuries, black eyes and “scores” of bruises and cuts to her body, according to the charges.
Burt is also accused of beating and pistol-whipping a 24-year-old woman after she told him she wanted to go home to California, the charges say.
Following his Sunday arrest, one woman working for him used social media to contact the 20-year-old to try to learn her location and cajole her back into prostitution, the charges say. Prosecutors fear Burt will “leverage” family members and some of the women involved in his sex-trafficking enterprise against the women who are cooperating with police, the charges say.