Saunders sentenced to 17 years for Southcenter Mall murder in 2008

Barry Saunders tried to fight off tears as he told a packed Kent courtroom Friday that he was truly sorry that he shot and killed a 17-year-old boy in 2008 during a fight inside a crowded Southcenter Mall in Tukwila.

02/04/11 Barry Saunders teared up as he apologized Jones family Friday

02/04/11 Barry Saunders teared up as he apologized Jones family Friday

Barry Saunders tried to fight off tears as he told a packed Kent courtroom Friday that he was truly sorry that he shot and killed a 17-year-old boy in 2008 during a fight inside a crowded Southcenter Mall in Tukwila.

“I’m sorry for your loss,” Saunders, 23, said as he turned and addressed the family and friends of Diaquan Jones, the victim of the Nov. 22, 2008 shooting. “I know a lot of your family and a lot of your friends. And when I hear the situation of the plans that Diaquan had, it hurts me. We all should have that chance and I took it away from him.”

Saunders continued to read from his prepared notes on yellow paper that he had unfolded just prior to speaking.

“I took him away from you guys and it truly hurts me because I liken him to my little brother. Your anger, I understand. Your grief, I understand. But I just want you to forgive me, please. I pray that we all learn from my mistake.”

Saunders received a prison sentence of 17 years from King County Superior Court Judge John Erlick for the second-degree murder charge.

More than 100 family and friends of the shooter and the victim packed a courtroom at the Norm Maleng Regional Justice Center. In fact, court officials had to move the sentencing to a larger courtroom on a different floor after so many people showed up.

Saunders pleaded guilty in December to the murder as well as a second-degree assault charge for shooting and injuring a 15-year-old boy during the mall fight that charging papers called an altercation involving several individuals from two distinct groups.

Saunders entered that plea just one month before his scheduled trial in exchange for a shorter sentence worked out between defense attorney Philip Sayles and King County Deputy Prosecutor Scott O’Toole.

Jones died of a gunshot wound to the abdomen. Saunders also was charged with assault against Jermaine McGowan, who was with Jones at the mall. McGownan was wounded by a gunshot.

The shooter faced a sentencing range of 17 years to 25 years in prison. Erlick agreed with the recommendation from both attorneys to issue a 17-year sentence for the murder and assault.

“There is no resolution that will solve anything and bring anybody back,” Erlick said before he issued the sentence. “But we must seek what is most just. It is this court’s opinion that the recommendation presented by your attorney and the state is well thought out and is appropriate under the circumstances of this case. That includes the severity of the crime of taking a life, but also the the lack of your criminal history and your acceptance of responsibility.”

Timothy Jones, the father of the victim, told the court prior to the sentencing that he wanted Sanders to get as much time as possible in prison.

“I want nothing to be light about this,” Jones said. “I don’t want to see him in for only 10 or 15 years. I don’t want no sympathy on this one. He has a lot of family here and that’s good. But my son will not be here. He took that from everybody.”

Jones said he wished Saunders had never brought a gun to the fight at the mall.

“My son was no angel,” Jones said. “But they had a fight. He (Saunders) came back with a gun and then the fight’s done with, it’s a wrap. The sole purpose he came with his gun was to do what he did.”

Four days after the shooting, Saunders was captured in Oregon by Portland police officers, working with Tukwila police. Witnesses had identified Saunders as the shooter.

O’Toole told the court he agreed to negotiate the case because Saunders accepted responsibility for the crime.

“It has been my consistent impression that he has accepted responsibility and expressed true remorse for what happened,” O’Toole said. “He has accepted it and pleaded guilty as charged.”

Sayles told the court that Saunders, who is only 5 feet 5 and about 115 pounds, told him that he got bullied a lot by others and that he was scared. On that day at the mall, Sayles said Saunders received a call from his younger brother to come help him because there was “something going down.”

“When he came to the scene, they were outnumbered by the opposing side,” Sayles said. “And he knew some of them had gang affiliations. He got a call from his brother, he was outmatched and he did a very stupid thing. But maybe he had the gun for protection.”

Shaniqua Jones, a sister of Diaquan, battled tears as she told the court she had waited for her brother to come pick her up on that fatal day in November but he never showed up.

“When I called, all a friend could say was that he got shot,” Jones said. “I broke down instantly.”

Jones said life’s been a challenge without her brother.

“Barry’s family is hurt but I hurt worse because I will never see him again,” she said. “I can’t tell him how I feel. I can’t hold him.”

Deidre Smallwood, the mother of Saunders, also addressed the court.

“I’m really, really sorry to the Jones family,” Smallwood said through tears. “And it hurts me deeply that I was not there to protect my kid who was trying to protect his brother. He made a bad choice, but he’s not a bad person. I just want everybody to know I know Barry is deeply sorry for what he did and he’s not a monster. He’s a beautiful person and I want everyone to know that.”

Alma Chambliss, a great aunt of Jones, told the court how tough his death has been the family.

“This has hurt us all,” Chambliss said. “This has been so very devastating. It has been so hard for the father. We had to move because Tim and Shaniqua and the whole family has been so upset.”

Judge Erlick said he received and read many letters from the families and friends of Saunders and Jones as he studied the case.

“What struck me most is that in a case like this, no one wins,” Erlick said.


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