A gunman killed two teenage girls and wounded another Wednesday in an apparent gang-related assault that bathed a north Spokane neighborhood in bullets.
The shooting occurred shortly before 2 a.m. at 2928 E. Central, where a group of teens were having a party.
The killer quietly walked up a path leading to the front porch, sprayed more than a dozen bullets at the girls and walked away, police said.
Two of the girls, sitting on the porch railing with their backs to the man, were shot in the head and died instantly. Police detectives said the killer was less than 15 feet away.
Then, the gunman walked south one block on Haven Street to Columbia, ripped off at least 11 more rounds from his semi-automatic rifle, got into a station wagon and drove away, witnesses said.
The final spray of bullets may have been the killer’s way of “signing off” - a finishing touch commonly used by gang members in shootings, police said.
“We think it was a finale of some sort,” Lt. Jerry Oien said. “He could have been cleaning out the remaining rounds in his rifle and signing off at the same time.”
Residents thought they were in a war zone.
“It sounded like warfare over there,” said one neighbor who lives across the street.
The scared 24-year-old single woman grabbed her loaded 20-gauge shotgun, and peered out her bedroom window, but couldn’t see anything.
Police wouldn’t immediately make public the victims’ names, saying dental records will be used today in autopsies for positive identification.
Relatives and other police sources, however, said the victims were Kendra Grantham, 16, and her friend, Cindy Buffin, 15, both of Spokane.
Another victim, 13-year-old Amanda Denny, was shot once in the side. She was treated at Holy Family Hospital and released.
Amanda Denny lives at the Hillyard home with her mother, Janice Denny, and her brother Eric, a 17-year-old Rogers High School student.
Both the girl and her brother have friends who are gang members, according to police. Gang members frequently troop through the home, police said.
“Gangsters definitely hung out there and the (victims) all associated with gang members,” said officer Larry Saunders, a gang specialist. “It could very well be that their association alone put them at risk.”
A fourth girl on the porch, a 12-year-old, was not injured.
Oien said several people at the party left after the shooting, and they are now being sought for questioning.
Throughout the day, police stopped cars in North Spokane and questioned people they believe were at the party. No arrests were made.
About 90 minutes before the killings, a pizza deliveryman, Lon Neal, made a delivery to a house across the street.
“I heard a gunshot from that direction,” said Neal, a military veteran.
His customer heard the same shot that Neal described as likely coming from a military-style rifle.
“I heard the gunshot, and the pizza guy said, ‘Hurry up, give me the money, I want to get out of here,”’ the customer said.
As he left in his delivery car, Neal said he saw two “suspicious looking” vehicles pull up in front of the Denny home.
Detectives don’t know whether the killings were a reprisal over the earlier gunshot the pizza man and his customer heard.
In that same area of the city, Oien said police received reports about a “number of gunshots” fired Tuesday night and early Wednesday.
Court records show Buffin pleaded guilty in 1993 to robbing a man of his Camaro at knife-point. She was sentenced to 80 weeks in detention. Neither Grantham nor Denny had criminal records.
Court records list Buffin’s address as “unknown.”
Neighbors said she likely was staying at the Denny home, like other teenagers who often come and go from there. The house is known for loud parties, residents said.
“I hear loud, gangster-rap music coming from over there all the time, and I’ve called the police at least three times,” one neighbor said.
Most neighbors didn’t want their names used, fearing their homes could be the next targets.
Sandy Schneider, who manages a nearby apartment, said there are “kids over there, all the time.
“When I heard screaming last night, at first I thought it was just another party,” Schneider said.
Other residents blamed Eric Denny for attracting the violence. Many neighbors called him a gang member who carries a gun.
Juvenile records show Eric Denny has a long criminal record. He has been arrested for possessing cocaine, vehicle prowling, malicious mischief, robbery and assault.
In 1993, he held another teen at gunpoint and robbed him of his fanny pack and jacket, records show.
He denied Wednesday’s shooting was gang related. He spouted a number of obscenities before leaving the house with friends. Efforts to reach his mother, Janice, and wounded sister were unsuccessful.
Phil Kramer, who has rented the home to the Dennys for three years, said he’s never had problems with the family.
“Jan’s just a single mom trying to do right with her kids,” Kramer said. “I think it’s been tough for her. She tries hard.”
Kramer said he went by the house Tuesday night to collect this month’s rent and both teenagers were there with friends. He said he sometimes worried about the “type of kids coming and going” with the Denny children.
“I just think they’ve been too wild for too long and they ran around with the wrong people,” Kramer said. “It finally caught up with them. I just wish this never happened but I’m thankful Amanda’s OK.
“It’s such a sad thing.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 Color Photos Graphic: Spokane’s early morning terror