Federal Way restaurant owner shot in NE Tacoma road rage incident

Mediterranean Gyro Grill owner Jay Barbour, 45, was shot in the spine; one suspect facing charges.

A 20-year-old man is accused of shooting a Federal Way restaurant owner — paralyzing him from the chest down — in Northeast Tacoma on June 23 following a road rage incident, according to charging documents.

Mason Zavier Taylor, of Federal Way, was charged with first-degree assault and drive-by shooting in Pierce County Superior Court. He pleaded not guilty on June 30 and his bail is set at $50,000. His trial is set for July 17.

At about 12:40 p.m. June 23, Tacoma Fire Department crews responded to the intersection of 29th Street NE and Norpoint Way NE near Marine View Drive for a driver who reportedly said he could not feel his legs.

According to the charging documents, Taylor and a 19-year-old suspect, who has not yet been charged, were in a Ford SUV when Taylor allegedly yelled at a driver in a commercial van and said he didn’t like the way he was driving. Taylor allegedly flipped off the commerical van driver — 45-year-old Jay Barbour.

Barbour is the owner of the Mediterranean Gyro Grill restaurants in Federal Way and Tacoma. The Federal Way gyro spot (34024 Hoyt Road SW) has served the local community for almost a decade. But beyond the stellar service and delicious food, Barbour is a man woven into the community’s fabric.

“It makes him happy to help. He’s that type of man,” Wasim Azzam, Barbour’s brother-in-law, told the Mirror on a July 1 phone call. “He’s a wonderful man and father … This is devastating.”

When first responders arrived, they found Barbour, 45, had been shot in the back. At the hospital, doctors discovered Barbour had been shot once in the spine, nearly severing his spinal cord. While doctors are still evaluating him, Azzam says Barbour may be paralyzed from the chest down.

According to his conversation with Azzam, Barbour was driving north on Norpoint Way NE after making a quick stop at Restaurant Depot before a catering event. He was soon heading out for a camping trip with his five brothers in Leavenworth, Azzam said.

While traveling up the hill in his commerical van carrying wine and beer, an SUV pulled up alongside him and allegedly began yelling at him for driving too slow, according to court records.

“He doesn’t want to speed, [his van] is loaded and he’s taking his time. He did what’s right, he moved to the side for the guy to pass him,” Azzam said.

A verbal altercation ensued. Barbour pulled up to a red light at the intersection and put his foot on the brake. The suspects in the SUV allegedly pulled up beside him and fired two bullets through the vehicle’s back door before fleeing into Federal Way, documents state.

“The next thing he realized is that he cannot move his foot off the brake,” Azzam said, adding that the bullet struck Barbour one millimeter away from his aortic heart valve. “Had it moved one more millimeter, he would’ve lost a lot of blood and died on the scene, the doctors told us.”

On June 29, Tacoma Police detectives arrested 20-year-old Taylor and a 19-year-old man in connection to the shooting. In an interview with detectives, Taylor allegedly told police the driver of the commerical van was swerving, brake-checking him and allegedly pulled a gun on the people in the SUV, documents state.

When interviewing the 19-year-old man, he reportedly told detectives the commercial van driver was reaching into his glove compartment and swerving into their lane so “Mason acted on it and fired the bullet,” charging documents state.

Barbour is a husband and a father to four young daughters. He often worked six days a week and generously opened his restaurant to celebrations of birthdays, family parties and other important moments of togetherness.

A customer put together a GoFundMe account help with his medical costs. So far, the community has raised $17,130 of a $25,000 goal.

Azzam said the family has always lived in peace and would like to continue living in peace, but also hope for justice to be served.

“He was treasure, a quality person, an asset to our community,” Azzam said. “Now he’s going to spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair.”