Prosecutors charge Federal Way teen as adult in Gennings murder; second suspect expected to be charged as adult at later date | Updated

Michael Rogers, 16, was charged with first-degree murder and first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm on Tuesday in connection with the Feb. 13 killing of 16-year-old Wesley Gennings. - File photo
Michael Rogers, 16, was charged with first-degree murder and first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm on Tuesday in connection with the Feb. 13 killing of 16-year-old Wesley Gennings.
— image credit: File photo

King County prosecutors have charged two teenage boys with the murder of 16-year-old Wesley Gennings.

Diante Pellum, 14, of Tacoma was charged with first-degree murder on Wednesday afternoon in juvenile court.

Dan Donohoe, a spokesman for the King County Prosecutor’s Office, said prosecutors will request Pellum be tried as an adult, which a judge will determine at a later hearing.

Michael Rogers, 16, of Federal Way was charged with first-degree murder and first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm on Tuesday. He is being held on a $1 million bail and has been ordered not to communicate with Gennings’ family, witnesses or Pellum.

Police found Gennings with a fatal gunshot wound to the back of the head the evening of Saturday, Feb. 13 at, in a Taco Bell parking lot in Federal Way. He was alone in a vehicle, but several witnesses had heard a gunshot and saw two males exit the vehicle just prior to police arrival.

As the community mourned Gennings, detectives received tips from several more witnesses, leading them to Rogers and Pellum.

According to charging documents, the suspects and three unidentified witnesses had planned to meet Gennings near the Taco Bell to rob Gennings of marijuana under the guise of a purchase. One witness attempted to arrange the meeting with Gennings but ultimately backed out of the deal before it occurred.

Rogers, Pellum and two other witnesses allegedly stayed involved. Charging documents reflect the four of them dispersed and Rogers and Pellum went to meet Gennings. Just after 8 p.m. that night, the time of Gennings’ reported death, one of the witnesses received a call from Rogers and Pellum asking to be picked up. The witness told police Rogers was short of breath when he spoke.

After the two were picked up, they directed the driver to take them to “water.” The driver and one of the witnesses then allegedly took the suspects by the Taco Bell where Gennings was murdered and to a body of water. During the drive, charging documents reflect Rogers handed a witness a bag that contained several small baggies of marijuana. The baggies had unique embellishments on them that would later be found by police officers during a search of Gennings’ vehicle.

A witness asked Rogers what happened, and Rogers reportedly put up his hand and made a gesture that indicated a handgun was fired. When the four got to the water, Rogers got out of the vehicle and threw something on the ground that made a loud crack, presumed by the witness to be a cell phone hitting the ground. Charging documents show Rogers picked up the item and headed toward the water and returned.

As they headed back toward the Taco Bell, they saw police cars and activity.

Rogers was arrested at Thomas Jefferson High School, where police found a loaded .22-caliber handgun on him. Rogers, in addition to being a minor, was convicted of robbery and assault Jan. 26 and was prohibited from possessing firearms.

The night he was arrested, Rogers allegedly told detectives that he had been inside Gennings’ vehicle the night of the murder and that Pellum was sitting in the back passenger seat while Rogers was in the front seat.

After searching Rogers’ residence on a search warrant, investigators found a Taco Bell bag that had several small baggies with marijuana inside.

With Pellum as a suspect, police put out a call to media outlets to aid the search. One more witness stepped forward and told police that on the same day Rogers was arrested, but before Pellum had been arrested, Pellum allegedly said he and “someone else” met Gennings for marijuana but they “didn’t like the deal” he made so they robbed him. He also told the witness that Gennings was a “man down.”

On Feb. 23, detectives interviewed two staff members at Pellum’s school, Saghalie Middle School, who revealed Pellum had questionable behavior at school on Feb. 17. One staff member was reportedly talking about Gennings’ death in a group session of 40 students that included Pellum. Tthe staff members reportedly said that Pellum got up and said he had to use the restroom during the session but was told to wait. It was then that the staff members saw him gesturing with his hands and heard him singing or rapping something, although he couldn’t hear what it was.

Another staff member heard.

Not only was the student rapping about “smoking someone,” he also sang “snitches get stitches.”

Both staff members told police they believe Pellum is a danger to the public, they’re fearful of him and believe he is unpredictable.

Rogers will be arraigned March 7 at the Regional Justice Center in Kent.

The Mirror is opting to identify Rogers because he is being tried as an adult; it is opting to identify Pellum since his identity became widely known following the police search for him.


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