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Police: Home invaders knew their victims

By MIKE HALLIDAY

The Mirror

Federal Way Police officials say two recent home invasions and an earlier break-in that resulted in murder were apparently the work of criminals robbing people they knew, and two suspects have been arrested.

On Wednesday, police commander Stephan Neal said all three incidents were targeted at the individuals in the residences and not random acts.

"It doesn't appear they picked a target out of thin air," Neal said of two suspects in custody.

The men were arrested Tuesday as suspects in connection with two home invasions last month. The men are cooperating with investigators, Neal said, but apparently don't know each other. One was involved in an April 22 event and the second man participated in the April 29 invasion.

Police could be looking for as many as 10 more suspects. They expect to apprehend others based on information given by the two suspects in custody, Neal said.

One suspects is from Federal Way and the other is from Renton. The Mirror isn't naming the suspects until charges are filed by the King County prosecuting attorney.

Neal said one suspect was identified by a victim and the second was caught after investigators put together a photo montage that identified him.

Neither suspect was involved in the first home invasion on March 9, according to police. On that night, a woman at the house in the 28000 block of 22nd Avenue South called police at about 10:45 p.m. and said four men had broken in and were holding a man at gunpoint. When officers arrived, they found Theodore Wheeler dead. It was later determined he died from a single gunshot to the chest.

There are no suspects in the killing of Wheeler. While the victim didn't have a criminal record, according to police, he could have been known to the men who invaded his home.

In both of the April cases, victims told police the invaders asked for money and drugs after breaking into the homes. Neal said police believe the victims were robbed because the invaders knew their targets had criminal histories or were in the same social circles.

Neal said there's no indication the home invasions occurred to collect on debts from previous criminal activity.

On April 22 at about 3:25 a.m., four men wearing dark clothes with bandanas and carrying semi-automatic handguns pounded on the door of a residence at Camelot Square Mobile Home Park, announcing they were federal drug agents. They kicked in the door and held the victims at gunpoint and bound them. The intruders then searched the home for valuables.

At a little after 7:45 p.m. April 29, four men with "do-rags" on their heads and masks forced their way into an East Empire Garden apartments unit on 18th Lane South. They bound the victim and searched the house for valuables, police reported.

Federal Way's three home invasions are among a recent outbreak in the south King County area. Kent had four such incidents over four days from April 19 to 22. Kent and Federal Way police have compared notes but haven't found any connections between the cases, authorities said.

Kent officers arrested three suspects last week who asked the victim if they could visit him. After they arrived, the suspects allegedly held the man at gunpoint and went through his apartment taking credit cards, checks, money and weapons. They also took his vehicle. Police traced the suspects to an apartment in Kent and arrested them.

Staff writer Mike Halliday: 925-5565, mhalliday@fedwaymirror.com

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