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Man charged with murder in shooting at Kent gas station

A memorial emerges for David Christianson, the Shell Station manager, and Carlos Gonzalez, the store
A memorial emerges for David Christianson, the Shell Station manager, and Carlos Gonzalez, the store's clerk, who were shot and killed in the parking lot last Wednesday morning. Police arrested a Burien man for the shooting.
— image credit: Mark Klaas, Kent Reporter

A 29-year-old Burien man was charged Monday in King County Superior Court with two counts of murder in the first degree with firearm enhancements for last Wednesday's double homicide at a Kent gas station.

The defendant, Leland Russell Jr., is accused in the shooting deaths of two employees of the Shell station – David Christianson, 52, and Carlos Gonzalez, 20.

Bail was originally set at $2 million, but prosecutors requested and the court ordered that bail be denied for the defendant because of the danger he poses to the community.

Russell is scheduled to be arraigned at 9 a.m. Sept. 8 in courtroom GA of the Maleng Regional Justice Center, Kent.

If convicted as charged, the sentence range is 50 to 63 years in prison.

Senior Deputy Prosecutors Jessica Berliner and Karissa Taylor are handling the case.

Prosecutors allege that Russell and another man arrived at the busy gas station – at the southwest corner of South 212th Street and 64th Avenue South – during the morning commute on Aug. 20 and started arguments with several customers.

According to charging papers, witnesses said the defendant and his friend were rude and combative toward the customers and employees before they were told to leave. After Russell's friend started to physically assault one of the victims, Russell allegedly retrieved his gun from his vehicle and shot the two unarmed victims multiple times at close range, according to charging papers.

'Senseless, outrageous act'

"This was an absolutely senseless and outrageous act of gun violence that claimed two innocent lives," said King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg. "The evidence shows that the defendant and his friend came to the gas station looking for trouble.

"As his friend provoked a fistfight with a store clerk, the defendant retrieved his gun from his car and, without warning, fired multiple rounds, killing Mr. Gonzales, the store clerk, and Mr. Christianson, the store manager, who was trying to break up the fist fight," Satterberg said.

During an interview with detectives after his arrest, Russell admitted to shooting both men, according to court documents. Russell, who is Hispanic, said the dispute started after construction workers at the service station said racial slurs to him and his friend, a black man he identified as "Sac."

Russell was the only shooter, according to Kent Police. Detectives have identified the second subject, known as Sac, who was at the scene and are actively looking for him. He is wanted for questioning.

"We are currently working on getting the second subject involved identified," Kent Police Det. Melanie Frazier said in an email Monday. "We cannot release any additional information on the second subject yet. We do not want to jeopardize the investigation."

Detectives also seized the black Cadillac that was used during the incident and is being processed for potential evidence.

Police used surveillance video from the Shell station, both external and internal cameras, to help determine what happened. The video showed a brief verbal and physical argument between the two victims and a black man. Then Russell appears to retrieve a firearm from a black Cadillac and shoots the two men at close range. The men died at the scene.

Other incidents

According to charging papers, Russell is under investigation for chasing a motorist while wielding a gun earlier that Wednesday morning.

At approximately 7 a.m., just hours before the murder, Russell got out of his car after the woman honked at him and chased her as she backed up her car to get away from him, according to charging papers. He then pulled a gun and pointed it at her until she was able to frantically speed away, possibly saving her life, according to charging papers.

Russell, documents said, had been investigated twice over the last few years for confronting motorist with firearms, including in May of this year.

Russell also was booked into the county jail May 25 for investigation of burglary and harassment in Seattle, according to jail records. He was released two days later on $50,000 bail.

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