Police officers who were watching a house in South Seattle arrested a man this morning who is suspected of fatally shooting one man and wounding another Wednesday at a Central Area restaurant in Seattle.

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Police officers who were watching a house in South Seattle arrested a man this morning who is suspected of fatally shooting one man and wounding another Wednesday at a Central Area restaurant.

“He’s in a holding cell behind me,” Capt. Neil Low said of Rey Alberto Davis-Bell, 23, the subject of an all-night manhunt. “It’s a relief for all of us.”

Patrol officers assigned to watch a house in the 3700 block of South Cloverdale Street spotted Davis-Bell “moving around in the backyard” around 11:16 a.m., said Low, who is the captain of the department’s violent crimes unit. The suspect ran, but officers caught him and took him to Seattle police headquarters for questioning.

Police said they would book him into the King County Jail on investigation of homicide, investigation of attempted murder and investigation of assault.

Davis-Bell was identified by police following a shooting at 11:15 a.m. Wednesday at the Philadelphia Cheese Steak restaurant on the corner of 23rd Avenue and East Union Street.

The restaurant’s owner, Degene Barecha, was fatally wounded and later died at Harborview Medical Center. A second victim, a customer, was injured.

Barecha had problems with Davis-Bell for years, according to people close with the slain businessowner. They said Davis-Bell was among a group of young men who came into the restaurant, asked for water, not food, and tried to sell drugs to customers.

Police believe the shootings at Philadelphia Cheese Steak are connected with a shooting less than 30 minutes earlier at a West Seattle apartment complex, which was sprayed with gunfire. And this morning, Seattle police Chief Gil Kerlikowske said police believe a third shooting may be linked to the other two.

A massive search

Police on Wednesday launched a massive search for Davis-Bell, who was described as “heavily armed and very dangerous.”

A car believed to be the black Lincoln Continental seen at both shooting scenes was located late Wednesday in the 2200 block of South Forest Street and was impounded by police.

Police did not say why they believe Davis-Bell was the gunman.

Police usually don’t identify criminal suspects until they have been booked into jail, but they released his name and photo in this case because they believe he could be a danger to others.

Police said the first shooting, at the Longfellow Creek Apartments in the 5900 block of Delridge Way Southwest at 10:47 a.m., was apparently related to some type of domestic dispute. But the connection with the shooting at the restaurant at 11:15 a.m. was unclear.

The third shooting, which occurred at 12:45 p.m., was somewhere in the Rainier Valley, Kerlikowske said this morning. The exact location of the shooting wasn’t disclosed, but he said no one was injured.

Kerlikowske said a description of the vehicle and the license plate in the Rainier Valley shooting matched those of the car involved in the earlier shootings.

A criminal history

Davis-Bell has been convicted of assault and harassment. Since his release from prison in December 2006, he has been complying with the terms of his probation, according to the state Department of Corrections.

He was convicted of felony harassment after he threatened to shoot an employee at Miller Community Center in the Central Area in March 2002, according to court records. In June 2002, Davis-Bell threatened a cabdriver at gunpoint and was convicted of assault in April 2003.

Davis-Bell was determined to be “a danger to the community,” according to court records.

According to criminal records, he is associated with the Black Gangster Disciples gang.

Shooting described

Jatani, Barecha’s niece, said she spoke with an employee of the restaurant who escaped the gunfire. The employee told her the wounded man had been a customer. The customer was shot as he tried to run toward safety, she said. The employee was not hurt.

“We don’t know why he [the suspect] was there, but we knew he knew my uncle,” Jatani said.

Carrie Halterman, the manager of a state liquor store adjacent to the restaurant, said she heard between six and eight gunshots, but initially believed it was noise from a construction site.

“It didn’t register for about 30 seconds that it was actually gunshots,” she said.

When his former business partner was gunned down in 2003, Barecha vowed to continue their successful Central Area cheese-steak restaurant.

Barecha believed that failing to do so would tarnish the memory of Troy Hackett, whose slaying on a Seattle street has not been solved, Jatani said.

Hackett, 38, Barecha’s best friend and business partner, was fatally shot in his car at the corner of 19th Avenue and East Fir Street in July 2003. He was the popular co-owner of Philly’s Best Steaks and Hoagies, and his slaying shocked the neighborhood.

Victim was a newlywed

Barecha, 32, worked tirelessly seven days a week to become Seattle’s best cheese-steak chef, Jatani said. He dreamed of franchising his Philadelphia Cheese Steak restaurant and, most of all, happiness with his new bride, Meselech Edema, who was to immigrate here from Ethiopia in June.

Barecha, who emigrated from Ethiopia about a decade ago, changed the name of the restaurant, enrolled in online business courses and spent hours perfecting his cheese steak, Jatani said.

“He was there from when it opened until it closed, seven days a week,” Jatani said. “It was his life, his baby.”

Four months ago, Barecha traveled to Ethiopia and married Edema, who he had met through relatives, Jatani said. He recently bought a house and was preparing it for his new bride.

“He’s always wanted to have a wife that would take care of his home. He wanted a child and to take his family to church every Sunday,” Jatani said.

Jatani said she last talked to Barecha a few days ago, but had planned to stop by the restaurant Wednesday night to talk with her uncle about his plan to move his restaurant a few blocks east.

“He’s so young and he was working and sweating, and working for everything he had and everything was finally coming together,” she said. “He was getting really good business and he had it all taken away. He wasn’t born in America and he was the ideal citizen.”

The Rev. Getachew Jiga, who leads the Church of God of Prophecy in Seattle’s South Park neighborhood, said Barecha was a member of the church who helped lead their youth group and mentored teens.

“He’s a very nice person … He’s a born-again Christian,” Jiga said.

Suga Chambliss, who works at Thompson’s Point of View, a Creole restaurant behind the Philadelphia Cheese Steak, said it’s uncommon to see violence in the area during the day. She said she often talked to Barecha, known around the neighborhood by his childhood nickname “Safei,” and they often shared restaurant supplies.

“People eat over there then they come over here,” Chambliss said Wednesday afternoon, pointing toward the Philadelphia Cheese Steak. “We’re all family.”

Prayer service on Friday

Barecha never talked about feeling unsafe in the Central Area nor did he talk about being in danger, Jiga said. The church is planning to host a prayer service in the slain man’s memory on Friday, Jiga added.

“Pray for us,” he pleaded. “We need to do something about this violence in Seattle.”

While some residents said crime in the neighborhood had seemingly escalated in recent years, a check of reports taken by police in four surrounding census tracts shows crime has decreased in the past 10 years. During that time, murders have fluctuated from a high of six in 2003 to none in 2006. There were three slayings in the area in 2007, according to Times research of police reports.

Aggravated assaults went from 167 in 1998 to 94 in 2007.

Seattle Times staff reporters Brian Alexander, Natalie Singer, Jack Broom, Justin Mayo and news researchers Miyoko Wolf and Gene Balk contributed to this report.

Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or jensullivan@seattletimes.com