News

Man shoots friend and himself in West Hill murder-suicide

By ERICA JAHN

Staff writer

Kent Police are looking for reasons why a 19-year-old man shot a friend and then himself with an assault rifle after a night of playing cards and drinking at his Kent West Hill apartment.

Just before 9 a.m. Sunday, police were called to the Royal Skies Apartments, located in the 25900 block of 27th Place South, after someone called to report two people had been shot.

When police and medics arrived, they found 21-year-old Jonathan W. Erickson dead in the apartment with a gunshot wound to the neck. The 19-year-old, identified as Douglas R. Berg, was critically injured and was transported to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where he was pronounced dead about 10:30 a.m., according to authorities.

The King County medical examiner conducted autopsies Monday on the deceased men. Investigators ruled Berg’s death a suicide by gunshot wound to the head. Erickson’s death was ruled a homicide from gunshot wounds to his head and neck.

The five men at the apartment, ages 19 through 24, were friends from the same small town, Kent Police spokesman Paul Petersen said, though he declined to identify the town.

The men had been drinking, playing cards and arguing most of Saturday night at the apartment, rented by Berg and one of the other men, but the arguments weren’t mean-spirited or malicious, Petersen said. He characterized the discussions as akin to arguments that would take place on a college campus — philosophical debates that weren’t personally vindictive.

During the night, Berg produced an assault rifle and pointed it at the other men, police said, but then put it away in his room.

Two of the men were asleep early Sunday morning when Berg retrieved the rifle and opened fire, according to authorities.

He shot Erickson in the neck and killed him, police said, and shot two more rounds that didn’t hit anyone before turning the rifle on himself.

Police said two bullets from the rifle entered a neighboring apartment, but nobody was home at the time.

None of the men at the apartment could explain why Berg started shooting, Petersen said.

“All they could describe was the facts of what happened and what they heard,” he said. “They were at a loss as to what set him off.”

Staff writer Erica Jahn: 925-5565, ejahn@fedwaymirror.com

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