Southcenter mall shooting suspect captured

The suspect in the fatal shooting of a 17-year-old boy at Westfield Southcenter mall Saturday has been captured in Portland, according to the Tukwila Police Department.

Barry L. Saunders

Barry L. Saunders

The suspect in the fatal shooting of a 17-year-old boy at Westfield Southcenter mall Saturday has been captured in Portland, according to the Tukwila Police Department.

Barry L. Saunders, 21, was arrested at about 2 p.m. Wednesday by Portland Police officers, working with the Tukwila Police, according to Mike Murphy, a spokesman for Tukwila Police.

“Details regarding his arrest are not yet available but we can confirm he is in custody,” according to Murphy.

Tukwila Police detectives are on the way to Portland, he said. According to Murphy, Saunders will be extradited to King County for investigation of second-degree murder and first-degree assault.

Earlier this week Tukwila Police obtained an arrest warrant for Saunders. The department then released Saunders’ photo and asked the public’s help in locating him.

Saunders is the only person sought for arrest in the case, according to Murphy.

Saunders was identified through eyewitness accounts and images taken from the mall’s security cameras, Murphy said.

Killed in the crowded mall Saturday was 17-year-old Diaquan Jones. He died of a gunshot wound to the abdomen; his death was ruled a homicide by the King County Medical Examiner’s Office.

A 15-year-old boy with him, Jermaine McGowan, was wounded but was reported in satisfactory condition Monday at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

Whether the altercation between a group of youths at the mall was gang-related is part of the investigation, Murphy said.

The Tukwila Police Department has a substation in the new multimillion-dollar addition to the mall, near where the shooting occurred.

Two off-duty police officers patrolling the mall arrived within seconds of the shooting, Murphy said.

“They almost did it literally in front of the police,” Murphy said. “They just didn’t care.”

Off-duty officers routinely patrol the mall, Murphy said, with additional security brought in during the holidays

“They definitely pay for a lot of cops,” Murphy said of Westfield.

The shooting at 3:43 p.m. in the mall’s new addition turned the mall crowded with thousands of holiday shoppers into a chaotic scene.

The mall’s parking lot and surrounding streets quickly became gridlocked as shoppers were evacuated and then tried to leave. Many spent at least an hour sitting in their vehicles.

The protocol in such emergencies is for stores to gather shoppers inside, then lock down the store, keeping shoppers out of the corridors, according to Murphy. Then, police go store to store as part of the search.

“It most cases, it worked very well,” he said.

Some shoppers were taken to back rooms with store workers for safety and others were taken through non-public corridors to exit the stores.

“People were running like crazy,” a shopper said on Saturday.

Police officers from throughout South King County, including an elite regional SWAT force, were called to the scene.

The mall reopened with normal hours on Sunday.

Westfield Southcenter issued a statement Sunday:

“First and foremost, the safety of Westfield Southcenter shoppers and employees is paramount and always a priority.

Although we must decline to comment on what is an active investigation, we are very grateful for the rapid response of the Tukwila Police. The center is cooperating fully with the law enforcement investigation.

Westfield Southcenter has resumed its regular schedule of operations, and continues to work with Tukwila Police to keep our shopping center safe.

Clearly, such a senseless act in our community heightens everyone’s state of awareness and concern. Our security precautions reflect that heightened state. If shoppers feel uncomfortable and/or observe any suspicious behavior in our center, we hope they will report such immediately to our security, management or customer service personnel.”

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