Charges were filed Thursday in Seattle against three teenage brothers for the shootings in the homeless encampment known as the Jungle. The two older siblings will be tried as adults for first-degree murder and assault. Their younger brother will face the same charges in juvenile court.
Two people died and three were wounded in the shootings. One woman was found dead in her tent. Witnesses said another woman begged to be spared before they shot her.
Police said the brothers also took cash and heroin from the scene.
Assistant Seattle Police Chief Bob Merner said people in the community helped police get recordings of the suspects admitting to the shootings and even laughing about them.
He said the suspects also sold the gun they used to the informants. Police traced it back to 1976 when it was stolen.
Merner said police are now busy analyzing this evidence and the suspects’ mother remains under investigation.
“We did video and audio tapes, so all of those are being reviewed; all the evidence seized there including firearms; continuing interviews to determine the involvement of others as well as; what was the mother’s involvement," he said.
Court documents say the teens had run away from foster care and lived in a tent near the Jungle and in local motel rooms. They were living with their mother, despite a no contact order between them.
The two oldest brothers, James and Jerome Taafulisia, ages 17 and 16, could get a minimum of 90 years in prison. They have prior adjudications in juvenile court for robbery and theft.
Their thirteen-year-old brother could face prison until age 21.
King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said this case should prompt “a serious discussion” about what to do for other people living in illegal encampments.
“Hundreds of thousands of people drive by the jungle every day on I-5. And these citizens are unaware of the struggles that take place there among marginalized people who are homeless, mentally ill, drug addicted and/or criminally oriented,” Satterberg said.
He said the Jungle “is not a solution” the city should condone.