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Argument over parking spot, tow leads to Kent fatal shooting

Racial slurs heated up dispute at Alderbrook Apartments

A heated argument over an apartment parking spot, the potential towing of a vehicle and racial insults eventually led to the fatal shooting of 34-year-old Melvin Wilson by an 18-year-old man, according to the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

Prosecutors charged Koby Cornelious, of Kent, with second-degree murder for allegedly shooting Wilson on April 4 in the parking lot of the Alderbrook Apartments, 412 Novak Lane. He is scheduled to be arraigned April 21 at the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent. He remains in custody at the King County Correctional Facility in Seattle with bail set at $2 million.

According to court documents, Wilson, of Kent, and his girlfriend left their apartment complex at about 1:30 a.m. to get some food. The girlfriend told Kent Police that they saw a tow truck entering the complex and decided to turn around and warn friends in the hopes that nobody would be towed.

The couple then saw a woman they didn’t know in a vehicle parked south of the E building, not in a parking spot. They asked the woman, who turned out to be the girlfriend of Cornelious, if she needed assistance or was getting towed. The woman responded that she had called for a tow because the vehicle was in her reserved parking spot and she wanted it removed so she could park there.

That’s when the argument started. Wilson and his girlfriend were upset about the tow because the complex has a lot of low-income residents and tow fees are a financial burden. The argument quickly became heated as the girlfriend of Cornelious started yelling racial slurs at Wilson. She then used her cellphone to call Cornelious, who also lived at the apartment complex and showed up almost immediately.

Cornelious initially acted as a peacemaker, according to Wilson’s girlfriend. He tried to calm down the woman and got her to sit down in the driver’s seat of her car.

Cellphone video collected from witnesses by detectives helped them determine what happened next.

Wilson and his girlfriend reportedly began to leave but the girlfriend of Cornelious continued to yell racial slurs at Wilson, who then yelled back at her. The woman, who according to detectives in court documents, does not appear to be Black, called Wilson the N-word and told the couple to mind their business.

Wilson reportedly yelled something like, “Bitch, I’ll blow your head off,” as he approached the driver’s side window of the vehicle where the girlfriend of Cornelious sat. He yelled at her to not say the N-word.

Cornelious then reportedly pulled out a gun and without warning fired multiple shots at Wilson. He fired three shots from near the front of the car and then fired four more shots as he advanced on Wilson. Wilson died at the scene of multiple gunshot wounds.

Cornelious, who witnesses described as a Black man, fled the scene on foot. Detectives later tracked him down at the apartment complex and took him into custody without incident.

Detectives did not find a gun during a search of the apartment where Cornelious lived. According to charging documents, his mother and brother had been in the apartment and left before police arrived at the unit. Police found a magazine holder containing one bullet and the bullet reportedly matched the casings found in the parking lot near the shooting.

Cornelious has no criminal history. He is a 2020 graduate of the iGRAD Academy, according to a Kent School District commencement program.

During an interview with detectives, Cornelious denied any involvement with the shooting. He said he had been asleep the whole time, although he said his girlfriend told him something vague about her car and a tow.

Detectives also talked to the tow truck driver who arrived at the apartment complex just prior to the argument and shooting. He said the woman who called him provided her driver’s license and resident parking card showing she had the right to the parking spot. The driver said a couple then arrived and got into an intense argument with the woman, so he left without towing anyone.

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