Suspect accused of killing man over food stamps in Federal Way

James Richard Hills is being held on $3 million bail.

An argument about food stamps and a physical struggle for a firearm allegedly led to the death of an unknown man in Federal Way and the injury of a second man hit in the crossfire.

According to charging documents, James Richard Hills is accused of murder in the second degree and assault in the first degree for the incident, which took place around midnight March 18 behind SeaMar Community Health, 31405 18th Avenue South. Hills was arraigned April 8 and pleaded not guilty to the two charges.

Many of the details found in the charging documents were provided by a narcotics confidential informant with the Tacoma Police Department. According to the documents, the informant was with Hills before and after the murder and was living with him when the murder occurred.

According to documents, the night of the murder on March 17, from 9:30 p.m. to 11 p.m., the informant was shopping in WinCo Foods while Hills waited in the parking lot in his red Chevrolet Tahoe. Upon returning to Hills’ vehicle, the confidential informant said Hills was arguing on the phone with someone about a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program card, otherwise known as food stamps.

Hills told the informant he would drop them back off at his apartment so Hills could go meet with the person he was arguing with — this person he was arguing with is presumed to be the unknown deceased male, according to documents. The informant said about an hour later, Hills returned limping and had blood around his mouth. The informant said when Hills returned to the apartment, using expletives, he said twice that he messed up by shooting someone, according to documents.

The informant said Hills then explained how when he arrived to meet with the unknown deceased male, an argument ensued, in which the unknown deceased male punched Hills in the face, resulting in a struggle for Hills’ firearm. According to the informant, Hills said he shot five times, missing all five times before shooting a sixth time, hitting the unknown deceased male in the back. According to documents, Hills then returned to his apartment.

According to documents, various cameras at Federal Way intersections corroborated the story given by the confidential informant. Additionally, documents show further evidence inside Hills’ apartment, including a hoodie with blood stains consistent with descriptions of the suspect’s apparel.

The second man Hills shot survived and was transported to Harborview Medical Center for further medical treatment, according to previous reporting from the Mirror.

According to the prosecuting documents, on March 20, Hills was taken into custody by Valley SWAT in the Federal Way WinCo parking lot while conducting a hand-to-hand drug transaction in his red Chevrolet Tahoe. After being arrested, Hills immediately invoked his Miranda Rights.

Witnesses at the scene

At midnight March 18, an individual called police saying that his friend had been shot. This call referred to the shooting at SeaMar Community Health, of which the prosecuting office has accused Hills. Despite the confidential informant reporting that Hills said he shot the unknown man once, according to prosecuting documents, the responding police officers located the unknown man behind the SeaMar Community Health with multiple gunshot wounds to his back, where he was announced dead the scene.

Responding officers spoke with the individual who called in the shooting. The individual told a similar story as Hills, recounting that the unknown man and the suspect — presumed to be Hills — began fighting over a firearm, and during the struggle, the gun went off three times. He said the unknown man then fell to the ground, and the suspect presumed to be Hills said something along the lines of, “I didn’t take your food stamps,” and then Hills shot him in the back once more and then kicked the unknown man in the head.

As of April 8, Hills is in police custody with bail set at $3,000,000.