Shooting victim’s friends speak out: Eastlake grad’s ‘laugh lit up a room’

Claire Thompson, a people, pet and nature lover, hoped one day her nurturing, generous personality would lead to a career in nursing.

Claire Thompson, a people, pet and nature lover, hoped one day her nurturing, generous personality would lead to a career in nursing.

Thompson, a 20-year-old Sammamish native who was fatally shot early Sunday morning in Redmond, enjoyed giving to others and never asked for anything in return, according to her friends.

“She was the best friend I could have ever asked for,” said Mikaela Boyd, who was talking to Thompson when a bullet pierced a nearby wall and struck Thompson in the neck. “She had a beautiful soul. She wanted to be a nurse. She truly saw the beauty in everything.”

Thompson’s other good friend, Audrey Weigelt, who was like a sister, said her and Thompson had plans of becoming nurses together.

“She dreamed big and we dreamed together,” Weigelt said. “We were going to become traveling nurses together and travel around with our cats.”

A memorial is scheduled for 4 p.m. Saturday at Mars Hill Church in Sammamish, where Thompson grew up.

“She had no enemies,” said friend Cole Kradin. “Her laugh lit up a room. She was an incredibly great person. This is a huge loss.”

Thompson and Boyd were at a house party in the Education Hill area talking about the unappetizing food at McDonald’s when Thompson was hit with the bullet, according to Boyd. Thompson was rushed to Harborview Medical Center, but was pronounced dead at around 10 a.m.

Cornelius J. De Jong IV, a 21-year-old Redmond resident, faces first-degree manslaughter charges in connection with the fatal shooting. Police say De Jong acted recklessly when he fired what he thought was an unloaded gun, according to King County Prosecutor’s Office charging documents. The charging papers said De Jong appeared drunk after the incident and refused a breath test. The witness who called to report the shooting told dispatchers, “My best friend shot a girl in the house, he was drunk,” the charging documents said.

“You don’t mix alcohol and guns,” said Thompson’s high school friend Grace Robison, who knew both Thompson and De Jong, but was not at the party. “We need to bring awareness to this. This situation could have been avoided. We could have our friend back.”

Boyd echoed those comments.

“No one should have guns unless you are at a shooting range,” Boyd said. “Everyone in this situation should never be able to touch a gun again. I hope there is a lesson learned here.”

Neighbors said the residence where the shooting occurred was a known party house.

“It’s very sad,” said Paige Norman, who for the last 20 years has lived three houses down from the home where the shooting occurred. “I’m sorry someone had to lose a life, but it’s not really a surprise.”

Gun was legal

De Jong arrived at the party with a 40-caliber semiautomatic handgun, which he was known to carry. The charging documents said De Jong has a concealed-weapons permit, which was issued by the Redmond Police Department (RPD).

De Jong had placed the gun in a safe at the house because he said he would be drinking alcohol, but his friend and the homeowner’s grandson requested to see the firearm. The charging documents stated that when the gun was taken from the safe, the gun magazine and live round were ejected.

Several people handled the gun and afterwards, De Jong placed it in an unsecured kitchen cupboard for safekeeping. De Jong fell asleep on the couch and woke up to find the gun missing. The gun had been placed in a bedroom under a mattress, according to the charging papers.

When De Jong retrieved the gun, charging documents state another person in the room “objected to the handgun being handled while the subjects were under the influence of intoxicating liquor.” De Jong removed the gun magazine and pulled back the slide “halfway to three-fourths,” the charging papers stated. He then pointed the gun at the wall and pulled the trigger to show it was empty, not knowing there was still a live round in the chamber.

“In truth it was an accident,” said Robison. “I know (De Jong) and I know he wouldn’t hurt Claire like that. It’s really, really hard. I was just shocked. There’s no way to comprehend the pain that their family is going through.”

Boyd said the media reports about the details leading up to the shooting have been “twisted,” but declined to elaborate.

“It’s something I don’t want to talk about,” she said. “The situation should not have happened in the first place. I just think what I saw, no one should have seen what I saw. … No one should see their best friend drop down in a puddle of blood. I do believe there is a lesson learned: we need to grow up. It’s really horrible and tragic.”

De Jong’s arraignment is set for Feb. 27 and he remains in King County Jail on $300,000 bail, according to charging documents. Prosecutors pointed out in the charging papers that De Jong has past convictions for driving under the influence and minor in possession of alcohol.

Boyd said she doesn’t want to focus on what happened that tragic night, but rather on “remembering Claire for the amazing person she was and to celebrate her life. She lives through us now.”

Thompson: An always positive person

Thompson grew up in Sammamish with her mother, stepfather along with her older brother and younger sister, Boyd said. She graduated from Eastlake High School in 2010 after attending McAuliffe Elementary School and Inglewood Junior High in Sammamish, according to Kathryn Reith, Lake Washington School District director of communication.

She started working full-time at the Issaquah PCC in November as a helper clerk and then became a part-time employee in January when she began classes at Seattle Central Community College (SCC), according to a PCC spokeswoman Diana Crane.

“She was really well-liked, very positive and a hard working staff member,” Crane said of Thompson.

Thompson’s favorite class at SCC was anthropology, according to Boyd and in her spare time, Thompson loved going on nature walks and hikes in the area.

In fact, Thompson and Boyd would go on nature walks or hikes every week. Their last nature walk together was last week at Marymoor Park, Boyd said.

“Those were my favorite times with her,” Boyd said of the nature excursions.

In honor of her best friend, Boyd said she plans to go on a hike at Tiger Mountain, another place the two would go together often.

“It will be nice for me to get away from everything,” Boyd said. “Be somewhere where Claire would want to be.”

Besides enjoying the outdoors, Thompson loved cats and was the proud owner of two furry friends — Gucci and Oscar. She was also a big fan of soul and funk music, according to Weigelt.

Many of Thompson’s friends have posted memorials on their Facebook pages, showing their love and appreciation.

“I can still hear her voice,” said Robison, who met Thompson in 10th grade at Eastlake High. “She was a free spirit and cared about everyone who meant something to her. She was always there when you needed her.”

Contact Redmond Reporter Editor Bill Christianson at or (425) 867-0353, ext. 5050.