Kent teen driver under investigation for second-degree murder in death of police officer

Two passengers in custody for investigation of unlawful discharge of a firearm

Officer Diego Moreno. COURTESY PHOTO, Kent Police

Officer Diego Moreno. COURTESY PHOTO, Kent Police

A 16-year-old Kent boy remains in custody for investigation of second-degree murder after he reportedly fled police in a pickup that resulted in the death of a Kent officer.

Renton Police arrested the boy at his father’s home in Kent on Sunday afternoon about 12 hours after the pursuit, according to court documents. A 17-year-old passenger in the 2003 red Dodge Ram pickup who was taken into custody shortly after the vehicle crashed at about 2 a.m. Sunday, told police the name of the driver and the other passenger.

The passenger told police that the Kent boy was “driving crazy.”

An officer pursuing the truck estimated the driver hit speeds of 75 to 95 mph while speeding in a 50 mph zone along Kent Des Moines Road. The pickup drove with its headlights off.

Officer Diego Moreno, 35, died at the scene from his injuries after he was hit by a police vehicle in pursuit of the pickup near the intersection of West Meeker Street and Kent Des Moines Road. Moreno had utilized spike strips that helped cause the pickup to crash a short distance down Kent Des Moines Road. Kent Police were chasing the truck after multiple shots were fired at about 1:50 a.m. near the El Habanero restaurant, 1819 W. Meeker St. Initial police reports listed the gunfire as near Shari’s restaurant, which is just south of El Habanero.

The teen driver, listed in court documents as a junior at Kentwood High School in Covington, admitted to police that he was driving the pickup. He and another 17-year-old passenger fled the crash scene on foot. He said he knew officers were attempting to pull him over but he failed to do so. He also said he saw an officer laying out spike strips and knew what they were as he had seen them on television.

The boy’s father is listed as the owner of the pickup, according to court documents. The boy told investigators once he got home he told his father he had been in an accident. At about 3:14 a.m. Sunday, the boy’s father called 911 to report his red truck had been stolen from the El Habanero parking lot about 90 minutes earlier.

Police also arrested the second passenger in the pickup, another 17-year-old boy. Initial police reports incorrectly listed the boy’s age as 15. One of the passengers, of Kent, is being held for investigation of unlawful discharge of a firearm. The second passenger, of Tukwila, is being held for investigation of unlawful discharge of a firearm and a felony drug charge. Schools or places of employment were not listed in court documents for either boy.

The Tukwila boy was taken into custody shortly after the pickup crashed. Police found an unfired .45 round on the ground outside the truck, according to court documents. When an officer frisked the boy for weapons, additional .45 rounds were found in his back pocket. Police did not find a gun on the boy. The boy also reportedly had a white powdery substance in his front pants pocket.

The boy told detectives he had fired several shots into the air with a .45-caliber gun in the parking lot near the El Habanero restaurant. He also said he had about 2 to 3 grams of cocaine for personal use.

Officers recovered 36 fired cartridge cases from three different caliber guns at the shooting scene, including a 9mm, .40 caliber and .45 caliber.

Police arrested the second passenger, a Kent boy, late Sunday afternoon at his Kent home. He told detectives he used a Glock 22, .40-caliber type pistol to fire several rounds in the air near the restaurant parking lot. Police searched the pickup and found a Glock 22 pistol, according to court documents.

Police have not released any information about why the boys in the truck were firing shots.

All three boys are scheduled for a second court appearance Thursday afternoon.

The Valley Investigative Team, composed of detectives from multiple neighboring agencies, is overseeing the investigation led by the Renton Police. Kent Police spokesman Jarod Kasner said detectives are working to see who else may have been involved in the shooting near West Meeker Street and Russell Road South.

“It is believed there were multiple shooters in that initial incident,” Kasner said in an email.

The police pursuit started near West Meeker Street and Russell Road South after reports of gunfire. Witnesses reported a red pickup fleeing the scene. Police chased that vehicle south on Meeker Street and then west on Kent Des Moines Road, aka State Route 516. The pickup reportedly turned around on SR 516 near Military Road South and headed eastbound, where it went through the spike strip at the West Meeker intersection.

Kent Police Chief Rafael Padilla said at a press conference on Monday that the name of the officer driving the vehicle that struck Moreno during pursuit of the pickup will not be released at this time. The officer remained Monday in satisfactory condition with severe leg injuries at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. He is an 18-year veteran of the force.

Editor’s Note: The Kent Reporter is not releasing the names of the boys at this time because they have not been formally charged. Prosecutors also have yet to determine if the boys will be charged as adults.

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