Despite a fight involving up to 40 people and “lots of guns,” which killed two men and injured four others in front of scores of bystanders, King County Police have not been able to make a single arrest related to the shooting in Lake Sammamish State Park on Saturday night.
King County sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. John Urquhart told The Reporter on Monday that the one man they had in custody was being held on an unrelated warrant, but would not elaborate on what that warrant was for.
On Wednesday at 4 p.m., immediately before The Reporter’s print deadline, Urquhart confirmed there was “nothing new to report” on the investigation into the evening of bloodshed and violence.
The dead men have been identified as Justin Cunningham, 30, of South Seattle, and Yang Keovongphet, 33, of Kent.
A press release from Urquhart on Tuesday moved to correct what he said were inaccurate reports in a number of daily newspapers and news blog sites.
“Contrary to a published media report, detectives do not know who shot Cunningham,” Urquhart wrote. At least one newspaper carried a story yesterday that Cunningham and Keovongphet may have shot each other. Another wrote that Cunningham may have shot Keovongphet, and was then shot in retaliation by a friend of Keovongphet.
“Detectives also do not know who shot the other deceased person, Kang Keovongphet,” Urquhart continued. “There are several possibilities, but until ballistic evidence is analyzed by the State Patrol Crime Lab, no definitive conclusions should be drawn. To do otherwise is speculative and irresponsible.”
What started out as a verbal disagreement between two groups soon escalated into a fist fight, and, given the state’s conceal and carry gun policy which allows firearms in State Parks, the fight soon became deadly. In Washington State Parks like Lake Sammamish, it is legal to both consume alcohol and carry a semi-automatic handgun. Authorities have said alcohol may have played a role in the shootings.
At least 25 shots were fired within yards of families and young children who had been enjoying the warm summer evening.
“There were lots of guns and lots of gunfire,” Urquhart told The Seattle Times on Sunday. “It boggles the mind how dangerous this was.”
The incident is likely to spark an examination of gun-friendly legislation in Washington, including what is appropriate in parks which are public facilities paid for by tax payers for passive recreation.
Sandy Mealing, a spokesperson for Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, told The Reporter this week that the policy at Lake Sammamish follows the overall state policy for weapons – if someone is legally carrying a concealed weapons permit, they are allowed to take it into the park.
Mealing did not rule out an reexamination of the existing gun policy.
“Anytime an incident like this happens, people get concerned about their safety,” she said. “That’s part of what we will work on – how to rebuild that trust.”
Mealing went on to say “they haven’t made any decisions on whether to make any changes to the weapons policy because the case is still being investigated, and they’ll wait until they receive the final report. Our staff is in conversation with the state patrol and the King County Sheriff about whether there needs to be changes [to the policy.]”
Police and park rangers were at the scene within minutes, and took six men into custody. However if police were hoping the men would offer up the shooters, they would be disappointed. Despite hours of police questioning, five of the men were later released without charge, due to a lack of evidence. Other media agencies reported the men didn’t do much talking during their stay in the holding cell.
The police must now see what they can glean from the dozens of witnesses to the incident and the physical evidence left at the scene.
“There is an awful lot of evidence to go through,” Urquhart told The Reporter – 25 shell casings from four different guns, blood, witness statements, backgrounds, fingerprints, ricochets.
Police closed the park for most of Sunday while they conducted a thorough search for weapons and other evidence. Two guns were originally found in a car attempting to leave the scene. One gun was found beside one of the dead men, and another was later found discarded in a bush.
Three other people males were wounded during the shooting, however none of the injuries are life threatening. The victims include a 20 year-old North Bend man, a 22 year-old Seattle man, and a 16 year-old from Renton. All were treated at Harborview Medical Center.
A fourth victim was treated at Overlake Hospital. He was beaten after the shooting, and his injuries were described as not serious.
On Tuesday night, The Seattle Times reported that Keovongphet had been arrested twice before the age of 18 for shooting at rival gang members, and was sentenced to four years in prison.
Detectives are interviewing witnesses and preparing evidence for the crime lab. Anyone with additional information is asked to call the Sheriff’s Office at 206-296-3311.