A memorial for 19-year-old Damien Helmbrecht is placed outside of the Westway Community Center on April 23. The Westway neighborhood has been the location of two homicides within eight days this month. Olivia Sullivan/staff photo

A memorial for 19-year-old Damien Helmbrecht is placed outside of the Westway Community Center on April 23. The Westway neighborhood has been the location of two homicides within eight days this month. Olivia Sullivan/staff photo

Federal Way police address gun violence in Westway area after homicides

King County Medical Examiners have identified the 21-year-old man killed in drive-by shooting on April 28.

The Federal Way Police Department is taking steps to address the rise of gun violence after two homicides occurred within eight days in the city’s Westway neighborhood.

A man was killed in a possible drive-by shooting around 9 p.m. April 28 at the Westway community park, 2400 SW 334th St. Life-saving measures were attempted, but the man died at the scene, according to police. Based on preliminary information, police believe the fatal gunshots were fired from a vehicle driving by the park.

The King County Medical Examiner’s Office identified the victim as 21-year-old Javier Romo. The cause of death was a gunshot wound to the head, and the death was ruled a homicide.

Eight days prior on April 20, Federal Way police responded to reports of a shooting at the Westway Community Center in the 33400 block of 21st Avenue SW. A male victim, who has since been identified as 19-year-old Damien Helmbrecht, was found near the building and had died at the scene, according to police.

His cause of death was a gunshot wound to the torso. His death was also ruled a homicide by the King County Medical Examiner’s Office.

On Dec. 22, 2019, a teen was found by police sitting in a vehicle in the Westway neighborhood with life-threatening gunshot wounds. The victim, 19-year-old Luis Delacerda, died later that night as a result of his injuries. His manner of death was ruled a homicide.

Federal Way police do not have any leads or suspects in custody for the April homicides.

“Gun violence in the city is very concentrated and as of late, is on the rise in a small geographical area, the Westway Community,” said FWPD Cmdr. Kurt Schwan.

The department is implementing both short-term and long-term efforts to address the problems in this neighborhood, Schwan said. The Westway neighborhood is located off 21st Avenue SW in Federal Way near South King Fire and Rescue Station 63.

Detectives are aggressively investigating the shootings in an attempt to identify the perpetrators and hold them accountable, Schwan said.

“Our highest priority at this time is to solve the latest homicides,” Schwan said. “The challenges and obstacles with these investigations has been the lack of cooperation from the parties involved.”

Police are providing additional patrol coverage seven days a week with two officers in the Westway community at varying times. Officers assigned to the area have also been instructed to provide extra patrols during all three patrol shifts, which includes days, swing shifts and nights.

Schwan said the FWPD is utilizing members of the department’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU) and Special Operations Unit (SOU) for emphasis patrols and Problem-Oriented Policing (POP) projects. Police are also strategizing and collaborating with local property owners and the homeowner’s association to remove known problem residents, he said.

The department is also increasing the use of the force’s Automated License Plate Reader (ALPR) vehicles.

For now, police are temporarily placing additional lightpole cameras in the area, and are working toward the installation of permanent Safe City cameras in the Westway community, with license plate reader capability at the entrances to Westway as well as two cameras in the park, Schwan said.

The latest deaths previously mentioned bring the total in Federal Way to seven homicides within seven months including: 19-year-old Donovan McDonald, who was shot and killed on Jan. 6; 30-year-old Sean McMullin, who was fatally stabbed on Jan. 9; 37-year-old Janet Enid Akiniyi Oyuga, who was fatally shot on Dec. 19, 2019; and 37-year-old Moisef Vega Mendez, who died from a gunshot wound to the head on Oct. 6, 2019.

An additional homicide currently under investigation by Seattle Police is the death of 25-year-old Daniel Ro. Ro, who resided at a Federal Way address, died from a gunshot wound to the chest on Feb. 18 at Harborview Medical Center.

Federal Way police were notified of Seattle’s homicide investigation after Ro’s death. At this time, it is unclear if the crime occurred in Federal Way.

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