After three shootings shook the Federal Way community during the past week, residents have expressed concern with crime in the city, and have called on city leaders via social media to find solutions.
Mayor Jim Ferrell has responded that the shootings were random and that crime is down in the city, while Deputy Mayor Susan Honda is seeking to initiate a joint meeting between the City Council and Federal Way Public Schools Board to address youth violence as two of the shootings involved youth.
“[Three] shootings in one week should be the final straw for anyone that makes decisions for this city,” wrote Marianne Best on the Mirror’s Facebook page. “We need more police presence so that criminals do not want to be here even momentarily.”
Danielle Estep said over the last six months she’s noticed a growing number of panhandlers and gun violence in Federal Way.
“Very sad that we don’t have a stronger police force here in our city,” Estep stated on the Mirror’s Facebook page.
The first shooting during the past week happened on Oct. 2, when 18-year-old Jerry Delon Jones fired two shots into a crowd of juveniles that twice struck a 14-year-old girl in her legs. Jones was charged in the drive-by shooting on Monday.
On Friday, a 17-year-old male was shot during an altercation in the parking lot at Wild Waves Theme Park just before the park closed.
The third incident was a fatal shooting and occurred on Sunday morning, when a 36-year-old man was shot during a dispute in the Chevron gas station parking lot on Southwest Dash Point Road. The man later died of his injuries at Harborview Medical Center.
“This is really tragic and it’s something we are all over in addressing,” Mayor Jim Ferrell told the Mirror on Monday about the shootings. “We are aggressively leading those investigations and we’re going to hold [the suspects] accountable.”
He emphasized the three shootings are unrelated to each other, and that crime is down in the city.
“The homicide in the early morning hours on Sunday is the first murder in the city of Federal Way this year,” Ferrell said. “We had a relatively quiet summer as it relates to gun violence. But I have to tell you that the number one priority of the city is to protect our citizens and we take this with the utmost seriousness.”
The mayor noted that in the first six months of this year compared to 2018, the city’s overall crime rate dropped by 9%, including gun crime, which saw a 10% decrease.
Since Ferrell took office in 2014, the city has added eight officers to the force. The city’s budget authorizes 134 commissioned officers, of which the police department is attempting to fill four positions.
“It’s been a major priority for this administration to add more officers, and our plan is to add more,” he said, noting that the city’s target is 140 officers, but “we’ll have to figure out how we’ll get there. We have to make sure we’re operating within our budget.”
However, Ferrell doesn’t believe the shootings happened due to police staffing levels. There were five police officers on site at Wild Waves on Friday providing security for the theme park.
“The shooting was heard in the presence of five officers who were already there.”
Ferrell stressed that he is committed to making Federal Way a safe city.
“These crimes do not define Federal Way. You have a small number of people in this community that committed these heinous crimes,” he said. “We’re going to define who we are by how we respond and making this a safe city.”
Deputy Mayor Susan Honda said Federal Way is not unique with these types of incidents. However, the shootings still impacted the community.
“It’s very concerning, especially when two of the shootings involved young people,” Honda told the Mirror on Monday. “I’m glad that they were not fatally wounded but they were very seriously injured and their lives and their family’s lives will be changed because of this, so it’s still very serious and I’m very sad about it.”
Though the mayor said the crimes didn’t occur because of a staffing issue, Honda said it wouldn’t hurt for the city to have more officers. As the city continues to grow, the city “needs to keep up and add more officers.”
Honda also offered another solution to prevent gun violence that she hopes leaders from both the city and Federal Way Public Schools will move forward with.
During a recent King County Board of Health meeting that included a briefing on youth violence and the use of guns, Honda asked the presenters what schools were teaching students about gun violence.
A speaker from the Washington State Gun Alliance replied that very few schools in King County were talking to students about this issue. Honda would like to initiate a joint public meeting between the council and the school board.
“We really need to get that message out to our youth that there are better ways to solve arguments and we’re not going to solve anything with gun violence — that makes it worse,” she said. “I’d really like to work with the school board on this. Together as elected leaders of Federal Way we need to be doing something together to solve this.”
Kassie Swenson, FWPS chief of communications and strategy, said in a statement that the district is “saddened by the recent news of violence involving young people that took place off campus in the past week.”
She noted the district actively works toward creating safe school communities and teaches students appropriate and safe behavior inside and outside the classroom.
Some of the highlights of the work the district does in regard to student safety includes they have strong relationships with community-based organizations and local law enforcement partners who help teach the importance of violence prevention, strong mentorship programs in schools that reach youth who are at risk of engaging in these types of activities, and a new program for all high school athletes that emphasized violence prevention and more.
But schools can’t do this work alone, Swenson said in an email.
“It takes all of us – the greater Federal Way community — to teach our children that violence is not the solution to solve problems. It’s also important to ensure that children do not have access to guns or other weapons that could be used to cause harm,” the district’s statement continues. “We look forward to the continued partnerships and conversations with the City of Federal Way and others to make safety a top priority in our community.”