News

Schools close during manhunt

By ERICA JAHN

Staff writer

Several Federal Way schools locked down last Wednesday as city and county police searched the woods near Kent’s West Hill for a dangerous felon from Oregon.

About 9 that night, police arrested Randy Lee Brown, 42, in the backyard of a West Hill resident.

Thomas Jefferson High School, Totem Junior High and Star Lake and Valhalla elementary schools locked their doors just after noon Wednesday while police searched the woods near West Fenwick and Lake Fenwick parks for Brown.

Jefferson officials ordered their lockdown after Kent police alerted them to the situation and told them to lock down the high school. Brown’s daughter is a sophomore at Jefferson.

The other schools locked down voluntarily as a safety precaution. All four schools returned to normal class and bus schedules Thursday.

Lockdowns are not unusual in the Federal Way school district.

Last Monday, a staff member at Woodmont Elementary saw police with guns drawn near a vehicle they had pulled over, so staff locked Local police had been on the lookout for Brown, who they considered armed and dangerous, since last Monday, when they received notice from Oregon police that he was wanted for armed robbery, assault and auto theft, Kent Police spokesman Paul Peterson said.

Brown’s relatives, who have custody of his daughter, live in the Kent area, according to Brown’s nephew, who also is a student at Jefferson High.

A Kent Police officer was patrolling the West Hill area about noon when he spotted Brown driving a red Pontiac near 38th Avenue and Reith Road, Peterson said.

When the officer pulled a U-turn to stop him, Brown sped across the street into the Happy Hearts Preschool and Kindergarten, left the car behind the building and ran into the gymnasium.

About 25 minutes after Brown ran into the school, an adult emerged and said he had left and run into the trees, Peterson said. Police didn’t say how long Brown was actually in the building.

The 36 children and 12 adults from the preschool were taken to Kent Fire Station 73, and police searched the building. None of the children or adults was injured or threatened, police said.

Police blocked off a 20-block area surrounding West Fenwick and Lake Fenwick parks and used helicopters and K9 units to search for Brown Wednesday afternoon. They called off the search about 3:30 p.m. and took the Pontiac into evidence.

About 9 that night, a man living in the West Hill neighborhood called police after hearing noises in his backyard. Kent police brought out a K9 unit and searched the backyard, where they found Brown hiding in a pile of lumber.

Brown didn’t resist arrest and he didn’t try to run, Peterson said. He was booked into the Kent jail Wednesday night and had a preliminary hearing Thursday for possessing the stolen Pontiac he drove from Oregon. Bail was set at $100,000.

Peterson said police in Lane County, Ore. are completing their investigation of the robbery, assault and auto theft Brown is suspected of committing prior to his flight to Washington.

They’ll be getting a warrant for his arrest and requesting his extradition back to Oregon.

Staff writer Erica Jahn can be reached at 925-5565 and ejahn@fedwaymirror.com

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