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August 25, 2014 at 1:18 PM

1st-degree murder charges filed in Kent double homicide

King County prosecutors charged a 29-year-old Burien man with two counts of first-degree murder on Monday in connection with last week’s double homicide outside a Kent gas station.

Leland Dean Russell, whose bail was initially set at $2 million following his arrest, is now being held without bail after Senior Deputy Prosecutor Jessica Berliner successfully argued that a constitutional amendment passed by voters in 2010 applied to his case. She wrote in charging documents that Russell “brazenly executed two people for little or no provocation,” deliberately shooting both victims “multiple times from close range” before fleeing the scene and attempting to conceal or destroy evidence.

Killed were gas station employees David Christianson and Carlos Gonzales. Both were fatally shot at the Shell station at 6331 S. 212th St. in Kent just after 8:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Kent police Detective Melanie Frazier said Monday that detectives are still working to identify Russell’s friend and passenger. Both men argued with others at the gas station, and the unidentified man shoved Gonzales before Russell ran back to his car, grabbed his gun and shot both Christianson and Gonzales, charging papers say.

Russell apparently told investigators a group of construction workers had made racial slurs against him and his friend, prompting the shooting, but Berliner wrote in charging documents that witnesses did not corroborate his account:

“Although the defendant later attempted to justify his behavior by claiming that someone else instigated the confrontation by using racial epithets, numerous witnesses at the scene indicate the defendant and his friend were rude, provocative, and combative towards customers and Shell Station employees for several minutes before they were told to leave by the victims — unarmed, store employees,” Berliner wrote in charging papers.

Berliner also wrote in the papers that Russell — who is alleged to have threatened a female driver with a gun less than two hours before the fatal shooting — was “intent on creating a situation where he could use his gun,” killing the two men because of his “inexplicable desire to act like a ‘gangster.'”

In 2010, Washington voters overwhelmingly voted in favor of a constitutional amendment giving judges greater leeway to deny bail to certain defendants in the wake of the 2009 killings of four police officers in Lakewood.

Citing the amendment in her request to have Russell held without bail, Berliner argued in charging documents that there is “clear and convincing evidence” of his propensity for violence that creates a substantial likelihood of danger to the community.

Comments | More in The Blotter | Topics: homicide, Kent, King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office

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