Police seek aid in solving shooting

"How to helpFederal Way police are asking for help from any witnesses to the Sept. 25 shooting that occurred near Federal Way High School.A 24-hour tip line has been set up. That number is 661-4588.People with information also can call the department's criminal investigations section at 661-4740.Lead case investigator Dennis Wilcox can be reached at 661-4715.--------------------- A September shooting near Federal Way High School likely was provoked by a look someone didn't like and a conflict over a girl - not by racial tensions or school rivalries, Federal Way police said this week.Detectives still are investigating the incident, which left Federal Way and its schools with a black eye after a media frenzy portrayed the Sept. 25 incident as everything from race- to gang-related.Although police now say they have two persons of interest in the case, they also say they need help from witnesses of the Sept. 25 incident. Close to 50 people, many of them students in Federal Way schools, gathered in the area where the shooting took place. Some of them were fighting before officers arrived, and pepper spray was used to help disperse one group of students that was beating up another youth.We're making an appeal to parents of the kids who were there that they talk to their kids and encourage them to do the right thing, police spokesman Brett Hatfield said.Hatfield also said any witnesses who come forward will be protected under state law. He added that witnesses can have varying degrees of anonymity, and that people who leave tips on a police hotline don't even have to identify themselves.Something as simple as a conversation they overheard could be very valuable in an investigation like this, he said.Police this week released little detail about their persons of interest, who were identified the day after the incident, but did say they are not students - or even juveniles. One person is suspected of driving the vehicle that shots were fired from, and the other of actually firing the shots. Both sons of interest have obtained legal counsel and refuse to cooperate in the investigation, Hatfield said.Hatfield also said the Thomas Jefferson High School student injured in the Sept. 25 incident might have suffered a compound fracture to the ankle, not a gunshot wound, as police originally reported. The fracture likely was suffered as the victim exited a moving vehicle after shots were fired, he said.However, a gunshot wound has not been ruled out. Investigators are awaiting more lab results, he said.Diane Turner, Federal Way Public Schools spokeswoman, said this week's revelations about the incident illustrate the need for the media to be careful. Many outside media swooped in and characterized the incident as gang-related, race-related or as provoked by school rivalries. Some even reported these characterizations as fact, she said.I hope the media understand the impact of setting up these perceptions ...on kids, schools and the community, she said. This has shifted quite a bit from what was originally reported.Initial reports from witnesses and high school students characterized the fight as racially motivated.Once you investigate below that, which is what I think the police have done, you get to the basis of that (incident), Turner said.Following the incident, Federal Way and Thomas Jefferson high schools both were closed for a day. The district also suspended eight students for 10 days and expelled two others.Police presence at the schools also was beefed up for a short time following the incident.Turner added the district still is working on a program to identify school leaders - both in formal positions and informal leaders - in hopes these students can give school officials input on student concerns. The Federal Way Public Schools board also plans to focus on student input at its Feb. 8 meeting, she said.Though the incident was ugly, Turner says it does have a silver lining.A community forum following the incident filled Decatur High School's theater, and many community members and parents indicated interest in working toward long-term solutions to youth violence in Federal Way.This is an opportunity for all of us to work together. It's not a school issue, it's a community issue because our schools are a reflection of our community, she said. ...The opportunity to come together for our kids has never been greater. --------------What the investigation revealsPolice have spent more than 200 hours investigating the Sept. 25 shooting that took place about two blocks from Federal Way High School, but they still need help from witnesses.What police have learned is included in the following scenario, leading up to and including the shooting:One individual did not like the way a second individual looked at him. The conflict also involved a girl who had a limited relationship with both individuals. It escalated to a confrontation that was set to take place after school on Sept. 25. School Resource officer Curtis Tucker learned of the impending fight, and contacted the Federal Way student who was involved. The student was let out of school, and told to leave the area. However, he remained in the area and was later seen near the shooting location.A group of Federal Way students and students from other schools learned of the scheduled confrontation, and gathered in the 30300 block of 16th Avenue South after school let out. A short time later, the second potential combatant arrived. The vehicle carrying the second potential combatant was then rear-ended by a white Ford Mustang. A passenger in the Mustang shot at the first vehicle three or more times. A 16-year-old Thomas Jefferson High School student, riding in the first vehicle, was injured - either by gunshot or with a compound fracture suffered when jumping from the vehicle he was in. The student was treated and later released from Harborview Medical Center.The Mustang was occupied by two adult males. The license plate had the number 0 and the letter F on it.Police identified two persons of interest the day after the shooting.Police learned that one person of interest in the case owned a white Ford Mustang with that letter and number on it. The car's owner claims to have sold the vehicle, and says he cannot account for its whereabouts, but there was never a report of sale with the state Department of Licensing. Police have received conflicting information about when the vehicle was allegedly sold. "

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