EVERETT — How much did Allen Ivanov’s parents know?
That’s the question being asked in a wrongful death lawsuit seeking damages from the parents of a man who shot and killed three people, including his ex-girlfriend Anna Bui, 19, at a Mukilteo house party in July 2016.
The other two teens who died in the shooting were Jordan Ebner and Jake Long, both 19. A fourth person was wounded.
Bui’s family argues that Ivanov’s parents could have taken steps to prevent the shooting, according to a complaint filed last year in Snohomish County Superior Court. Instead, the plaintiffs allege that they ignored telltale signs that their son presented a danger to himself and to others, and negligently left him alone, with a newly purchased gun, the day of the shooting.
The lawsuit also seeks damages from Cabela’s, the store that sold Ivanov the gun used in the murders. The owners of the house where the party was hosted had also been named, but were later dropped from the case.
Ivanov was sentenced in January of 2017 to life in prison after pleading guilty to three counts of aggravated first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder.
To be held liable under Washington state law, the couple would have needed to foresee that their son presented a threat to others, and then acted in a way that would have made that threat more likely.
Representing the parents, attorney Hanni Pichel said the couple had no idea their son would kill. On Friday, she asked Judge Richard Okrent to grant a summary judgment and end the lawsuit.
Okrent denied the request. He said there were still a lot of questions to be answered.
“The case needs to go to trial,” he said.
Okrent said the couple knew their son was having psychological difficulties, knew he had been acting suicidal, knew he was having a hard time with his breakup and knew he recently purchased a firearm — which he put in his car the day he drove to the party.
Whether that rises to the legal bar for what is “foreseeable” is a question that would have to be answered at a later date, he said.
Pichel said there was no way Ivanov’s parents could have known he would carry out a shooting. Up to that point, Pichel wrote, the couple only knew their son as a “responsible, kind” person who was a good student, played sports and music, and was gainfully employed. Furthermore, she wrote, he had no history of violence.
The news had come as a complete shock to them, Pichel argued.
On July 29, 2016, they were out camping in the Olympic National Forest when they were awakened early in the morning by the repeated buzzing of a cellphone, according to the defendants’ brief.
It was their son. He was yelling and screaming. The sound of sirens could be heard in the background. He had shot people, he said.
“They did not believe him,” Pichel wrote in the brief. “It simply could not be true.”
Representing the plaintiffs, attorney Erica Buckley said there was plenty of evidence that Ivanov might shoot someone. He bought a gun days before the shooting. And, according to a friend who talked with attorneys, Ivanov had been extremely jealous, to the point of rage, of Bui going to parties and doing things without him. He also had experienced depression and suicidal thoughts for 1½ years, Buckley wrote in a brief, and he had increasingly acted strange and paranoid in the months before the homicides.
On one occasion, Ivanov told his mother somebody was following him, Buckley wrote. On another, when someone came to the front door, he became agitated, called police and alerted his grandmother.
And after purchasing a semi-automatic rifle from Cabela’s he posted pictures of the firearm on social media. One was captioned: “What’s Ruger gonna think?” Buckley indicated in her brief that Ivanov and his mother were friends on some social media platforms.
Just a couple of days before the shooting, Ivanov told his mother and grandmother, on separate occasions, that he thought Bui was “a snake,” the brief states.
His emotions appeared to crescendo the night before the shooting. Ivanov had left the house with the gun and sent “worrisome texts” to Bui and his friend. In a May interview with attorneys, the friend said he may have told Ivanov’s mother about the context of those messages as they went looking for her son.
“On that night he said, ‘Oh, I’m just going to go around (Harbour Pointe) and shoot my gun,’” the friend said, according to transcripts presented by Buckley. “And then, some of the scarier stuff was: ‘I’m going to kill people; I’m going to kill Anna; I can’t do this; she’s with other guys.’ That sort of stuff.”
The friend later said he wasn’t sure if he specifically told Ivanov’s mother about the threats to kill Anna or other people.
The next morning, Ivanov’s parents left to go camping. They made their son promise to leave the gun in the garage.
Buckley said leaving him by himself effectively was an act that made the shooting more likely.
In a brief, she said they “created a dangerous condition by going out of town for recreation and leaving their emotionally unstable son home with his newly acquired gun.”
Pichel said the court will need to discern what the couple knew before the shooting. She argued that they didn’t know the full context of what he had been telling friends, and therefore couldn’t know what was about to happen.
A trial date has not been scheduled.