A Federal Way High School senior was fatally shot after he was mistaken for a rival gang member, police said.
Damoni Nelson, 17, died on Oct. 2 after he was shot in the head in late September.
Around 12:45 a.m. Sept. 28, Lakewood patrol officers responded to a shooting at the Gravelly Lake Townhomes in the 13000 block of Pacific Highway Southwest, according to Lt. Chris Lawler, public information officer for the Lakewood Police Department.
On the scene, officers learned a 17-year old victim sustained a gunshot wound to the head and had left the scene in a private vehicle, Lawler said.
Washington State Patrol troopers intercepted the vehicle on I-5 near 38th Street and summoned medical aid.
The 17-year-old boy was transported and treated at a local hospital, but Nelson died as a result of his injury on Oct. 2.
“The investigation revealed a known gang member drove into the Gravelly Lake Townhomes parking lot and likely mistook the victim for a rival gang member, firing several rounds in his direction,” he said.
The Lakewood Police Major Crimes Unit detectives “worked exhaustively through the week” to identify a suspect in the shooting, Lawler said.
The suspect, Justin Coleman, 29, was located and interviewed by police on Oct. 6. He was booked into jail on a Department of Corrections warrant and later charged with second-degree murder, drive-by shooting and unlawful possession of a firearm on Oct. 8. Coleman pleaded not guilty.
Nelson is remembered by friends and family as a straight A student, a sunshine of a person and a talented player on the field, according to social media posts. Police said Nelson does not have any street gang or criminal affiliations.
Nelson was in the early weeks of his senior year and awaiting a possible spring football season with the Eagles as a team captain.
“Our Eagle community is saddened by the tragic loss of one of our students. Our hearts go out to his family and loved ones who are grieving the loss of someone known in our school community as an outstanding scholar, athlete, and friend to all,” said Federal Way High School Principal Matt Oberst.
“Damoni excelled in and outside the classroom, taking the most challenging advanced courses offered in math and science and was a standout athlete in football and track. We’ll remember Damoni for the smile he always had on his face, pushing everyone to be their best.”