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Families of youth killed, another wounded at barbecue in 2011 sue the state
In 2010 James Mills was convicted as a juvenile of second-degree assault and second-degree robbery.
The trial judge then placed the Kent youth under the supervision of the Juvenile Justice and Rehabilitation Administration, part of the Department of Social and Health Services, which despite his frequent violations of the conditions of his parole, allowed him to be free.
A year later, on May 22 2011, Mills shot and killed 16-year-old Adrian Wilson and wounded another youth at a backyard barbecue at the Aspen Meadows Apartments in Auburn.
So says Gabriel Wilson, father of the dead boy, and the family of another young man wounded in the same shooting. And now they have filed a civil suit against the state of Washington, claiming that it should have done more to stop Mills.
Their attorney, James Bible, wrote in the lawsuit, which was filed in King County Superior Court, that the Juvenile Justice and Rehabilitation Administration is responsible for "the wrongful death of Adrian Wilson because it failed to adequately supervise James Mills," during the months it was supervising him, an interval of time when he was allegedly buying and selling drugs, carrying guns and associating with other gang members.
In April of 2012, Mills, then 18, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for second-degree murder.
According to Auburn Police Detective Michelle Vojir's account, here is what happened:
On May 22, 2011, 911 received multiple reports of shots fired at the Aspen Meadows Apartments at 402 21st St. SE. Police responded and found young Wilson dead on the ground in front of apartment No. 45.
Witnesses told police that Wilson and his family had been attending a community barbecue that afternoon in the common area of the complex. Shortly before the shooting, Corey Branham, who lived in apartment No. 42, showed up with Mills, who was armed.
Within minutes, Adrian Wilson confronted Mills about the weapon. He was walking toward Mills when Mills pulled out the weapon and fired, hitting Wilson once in the head. Branham told police he then ran into his apartment, and, when he looked out a short time later, saw people surrounding the fallen Wilson.
Medics later transported two other young men, Steven Chehey and Robert Carro-Aguilar, to Harborview Medical Center with life-threatening gunshot wounds, according to the police account. They survived.
Branham and other witnesses identified Mills as the person who had fired the fatal shot, and police began looking for him, according to the police account. Between 5 p.m., May 22 and 10 p.m., May 23, Auburn Police Department officers and detectives followed leads to track down Mills. At about 10 p.m., May 23, two officers arrived at the apartment of Mills' mother in Kent and watched as a thin, black female wearing sunglasses approached the door and knocked. When officers walked up to the female, she removed her purse, sunglasses and wig. When officers realized that it was Mills, they arrested him.
Mills told officers that he had brought the gun to the apartment complex that fatal day to protect his girlfriend's mother. He told officers that the woman had issues with Adrian's father, Gabriel Wilson, whom Mills called "a bully." Mills told police, according to the account, that he had thought Wilson's group was trying to provoke a fight by hosting the barbecue directly outside the woman's apartment.
According to the police account, Mills said he had known that there was going to be trouble when he set out that afternoon, but that had not stopped him. Vojir then asked Mills why, if he knew there was going to be trouble, he didn't just leave."I'm not gonna run away from my problems," Mills responded, according to the police account. "I'm not getting punked, not gonna intimidate me. I'm gonna stay right there and do what I planned to do."
According to the police account, Mills told police that when Adrian Wilson and his brother walked up to him and started calling him names, he pulled the gun from his waistband and fired two shots. Mills said he then ran away, ending up at his brother's house.
Wilson died of a single gunshot wound, which had entered his chin and lodged in his spinal cord, according to the King County Medical Examiner.
According to the police account, Mills was a documented member of the Marvin Gangster Crips, an established criminal street gang, and Gabriel Wilson was a documented member of the Nortenos, a criminal street gang based in northern California. There is no known rivalry between the Nortenos and the Marvin Gangster Crips, but "beefs," Vojir noted, often result from direct contact and confrontations between gangs.
"The presence of gang members of unrelated gangs set together in one place is a volatile situation requiring the members to adequately represent themselves before their peers. This situation would normally lead to gang member arming themselves before expected contact with members of the other gang set," Vojir wrote.