A 25-year-old man, accused of fatally shooting a 43-year-old Seattle man at the Kent Phoenix Court Apartments, reportedly left his cellphone at the scene of the July 15 incident.
Kent Police detectives used that cellphone information, video surveillance and reports from witnesses to track down and arrest Jaiquane Sherrod Wheeler on Aug. 9 for investigation of killing Jeffery Ray Winn.
King County prosecutors charged Wheeler on Aug. 10 with second-degree murder and first-degree assault (for shooting at another man). Wheeler remains in custody at the King County Correctional Facility in Seattle with bail set at $2 million, according to jail records.
Wheeler is scheduled to be arraigned at 9 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 24 in Courtroom GA at the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent.
According to court documents, Wheeler reportedly shot and killed Winn in the courtyard of the Phoenix Court Apartments, 23913 111th Pl. SE, on a warm summer evening and then shot at another man, hitting that man’s cellphone.
“These actions put bystanders enjoying the evening outside at great risk of harm, as well as the residents inside apartments in his lines of fire,” wrote Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Brandy Gevers in charging documents.
Gevers wrote that Wheeler claims to be from Chicago and has lived in Washington for less than a year with few ties to the community by his own admissions during a law enforcement interview.
Officers responded at about 8:14 p.m. to reports of a shooting outside the apartment complex. Officers found Winn lying in the parking lot. Paramedics transported Winn to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle where he later died.
Winn died of a single gunshot wound to the chest, according to the King County Medical Examiner’s Office. A 9mm intact bullet was recovered from his body.
A witness told police he saw the shooter fire at Winn, who then ran, and the shooter chased Winn, according to court documents. After Winn fell to the ground in the parking lot, the shooter went through Winn’s pockets and said something like, “Where is it?” The witness said the shooter then fired at another man, and hit the man’s cellphone that he was holding in his hand.
Surveillance video from the apartment complex and a resident’s security cameras captured the same events as described by the witness, which occurred on the sidewalk area next to the C building.
The video showed a man, reportedlly the shooter, wearing black sweatpants, a black hoodie and white athletic shoes with black details on them and that he appeared to have dreadlocks or braids of a lighter color, possibly blonde, according to charging papers. The shooter reportedly fled the scene in a black Hyundai.
At the crime scene, an officer found an iPhone on the ground next to Winn. After obtaining a search warrant for the phone, detectives obtained the number and observed many selfie-style photos of a man with blonde dreads, according to charging documents. An Instagram account appeared to show the same man.
A law enforcement database connected the phone number to Wheeler, according to court documents. In-person surveillance and video surveillance reportedly showed Wheeler on several occasions after the shooting entering and leaving an unit at the Phoenix Court Apartments.
SWAT and detectives took Wheeler into custody on Aug. 9 at the apartments without incident. In the apartment, detectives found two 9mm firearms, white athletic shoes with black details, black Nike pants and a black-hooded sweatshirt consistent with the shoes and clothing worn by the shooter, according to charging papers.
Wheeler agreed to speak to detectives and told them he went through Winn’s pockets but that he didn’t shoot him, according to court documents. He thought Winn might have taken his cellphone. He said he saw a gun on the ground and picked that up and chased Winn. Wheeler said he didn’t find his phone on Winn, so he confronted the other man and shot at the ground.
Wheeler said he got rid of the gun after the incident. When detectives told him about finding a gun in the apartment where he stayed, he said someone else must have put it there because many people come and go from that unit. He acknowledged staying in that apartment since before the homicide.
Kent detectives spent hundreds of hours collecting and reviewing video, identifying witnesses and examining evidence to develop probable cause for the arrest, according to an Aug. 9 Kent Police statement.
“This apartment complex has been the hub for extraordinary violent crime, particularly this year,” Police Chief Rafael Padilla said in a prepared statement. “Today’s action is but one of several steps we are taking to identify and apprehend the violent offenders who have terrorized this neighborhood. We aren’t done yet, and I want the residents to know we will not stop working to restore safety in our community.”
Ronald A. Cruz, 26, of Renton was fatally shot Feb. 11 at the Phoenix Court Apartments. No arrest has been made in that case. Amy Dyke, 48, was fatally shot July 27 near the apartments, and no arrest has been made.