By Sara Jean Green / The Seattle Times
SEATTLE — Not quite three years ago, Jamel Jackson, a member of a Seattle street gang, was involved in a melee at Third Avenue and Pine Street in downtown Seattle, the same corner where he is accused of exchanging fire with two other men Wednesday in a gunfight that left one woman dead and sent seven other people — including Jackson — to the hospital with gunshot wounds, according to police and court records.
In a Thursday news conference, Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best said a fight among the three men outside a McDonald’s quickly escalated, with innocent bystanders getting caught in the crossfire. Though Best didn’t identify the three suspects by name, she said gang-unit detectives who reviewed the first video-surveillance footage from the shooting scene recognized one of the shooters.
“They knew him to be a felon and they knew he cannot be in possession of a firearm, which he had in his hand in the video,” Best said. “So they went up to Harborview [Medical Center] and located this person…and arrested him for illegal possession of a firearm.”
A King County judge Thursday found probable cause to hold Jackson, 21, on investigation of second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm and set his bail at $50,000, according to King County prosecutors. It’s expected he could face additional charges as the police investigation continues.
In May 2017, a then-19-year-old Jackson waded into a crowd of at least 20 people and inserted himself into an argument between a gang member and a man she was fighting at Third and Pine, court records show. Jackson repeatedly punched and kneed the victim and then was punched himself as others joined the fray, which pushed the fight into the street and forced buses to slow to avoid hitting people. As officers arrived, everyone scattered and Jackson was arrested a short time later with a loaded 9 mm handgun tucked into his waistband, charging papers say.
It does not appear the assault victim was ever identified and Jackson pleaded guilty to second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm and was sentenced to four months on electronic home detention, court records show.
Also Thursday, Seattle police identified Marquise Tolbert and William Tolliver, both 24, as the two other suspects in Wednesday’s gunfight that sent people running for cover at the height of the evening commute and forced the shutdown of several blocks of Third Avenue well into the night as officers gathered evidence and documented the scene.
Tolbert, who appears to be from Des Moines, and Tolliver, whose last name appears with only one “L” in court records and whose last known address is in Bellevue, have been arrested multiple times, court records show. Best said one of them — apparently Tolbert, based on court records — has been arrested by Seattle police at least 50 times, and the other suspect, about, 25 times.
A woman in her 40s died at the shooting scene, which spanned roughly 1½ blocks. She has not yet been identified by the King County Medical Examiner’s Office. Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said at the Thursday news conference at Seattle City Hall that investigators had not yet been able to notify the woman’s next of kin.
The woman who died, and a 55-year-old woman who was critically injured, were both longtime residents of Plymouth Housing, which offers supportive housing as a solution to chronic homelessness, spokeswoman Amanda Vail confirmed.
“As part of our permanent supportive housing model, our buildings become close-knit communities; these women were like family to many,” Vail’s emailed statement says. “Our hearts go out to the families, friends, and neighbors of all the victims. We are providing support to our staff, residents, and community partners during this very difficult time.”
The 55-year-old woman was in serious condition Thursday afternoon in the intensive-care unit while a 9-year-old boy and a 32-year-old man were in satisfactory condition, according to a Harborview spokeswoman. Three men, ages 34, 35 and 49, were treated and discharged Wednesday night along with Jackson. An Amazon spokesperson has said two of the injured men are employees who were outside the company’s offices in the old Macy’s building.
Durkan characterized Wednesday’s shootings as “gang activity.” Best said she couldn’t currently confirm that the shooting was a result of a gang dispute, though she said Jackson was a known gang member.
Best said officers at the shooting scene recovered more than 20 shell casings from three different caliber weapons.
“This is not a new thing. We know we’ve had an uptick in gang violence,” the chief said.
Best said she now will add detectives to the gang unit and rotate officers from other precincts to work shifts at the department’s mobile command center, which is being set up at Fourth Avenue and Pine Street.
Though Tolbert’s and Tolliver’s gang affiliations aren’t clear in court documents, the two were arrested in Kent with a third man in July 2018 in connection with a drive-by shooting. The victims in that case told police three men flashed gang signs before opening fire, court records show.
The drive-by shooting charge against Tolliver was dismissed by prosecutors “in the interest of justice,” but the records don’t include further explanation.
According to court records and the state Department of Corrections (DOC), Tolbert was imprisoned from April to July after he was convicted of second-degree robbery for ripping a $1,500 gold necklace from the neck of a woman in Bellevue in 2018. As part of a plea agreement to resolve three other felony cases against him, including the drive-by, he pleaded guilty to the robbery charge and was sentenced to a year-plus-a-day in prison and given credit for time he had already served in jail, the records show. He was also sentenced to 18 months of community supervision.
On Aug. 19, less than 7 weeks after his release from prison, a DOC warrant was issued for Tolbert’s arrest for failure to comply with the conditions of his community supervision, a department spokeswoman said. He has been at large since then.
In April, Tolliver was sentenced to three months in jail after pleading guilty to second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm, according to court records.
A DOC warrant was issued Thursday for Tolliver’s arrest, also for failure to comply with conditions of community supervision, the DOC spokeswoman said.
Staff reporter Scott Greenstone and news researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this report.