Although a shooting in northeast Spokane on Thursday likely wasn’t gang-related, the Los Angeles man accused in the incident was arrested earlier this year in a crack cocaine investigation targeting several gangs. Members of one of the gangs, the Atlantic Drive Compton Crips, were allegedly involved in a January fatal shooting – the only homicide in the city of Spokane so far this year.
Andrew T. Burns, 36, is in jail on an assault charge after witnesses told police he fired at least three shots at Kenneth R. Grooms, 40. The confrontation took place down the block from Grooms’ home near East Mallon Avenue and North Madelia Street.
“We really don’t know what happened,” said Burns’ public defender, Carol Huneke. “Mr. Burns does still share a presumption of innocence.”
Burns was jailed on suspicion of crack cocaine possession after a raid in Spokane Valley in February but he hasn’t been charged.
Spokane County sheriff’s Detective Brad Richmond said Friday that the drug case is ongoing, and Burns remains a suspect. The probe involves several California-based gangs police say are responsible for drug distribution and are prone to violence, including the alleged retaliatory gang murder of John S. Williams on Jan. 17.
Documents prepared by police and interviews with witnesses suggest Thursday’s shooting wasn’t gang-related. Instead, it involved a man long considered a nuisance by neighbors and Burns, who has few ties to the neighborhood and apparent access to a handgun.
“This neighborhood’s going to hell in a handbasket,” said Lorelei Wadsworth, mother of Grooms’ girlfriend. “I’m surprised I haven’t been shot.”
Police first thought Grooms wouldn’t survive, but he was breathing on his own and talking at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center on Friday. He’s in critical condition but is expected to survive.
Police found Burns walking through a playground at Stevens Elementary School. Police said they’d watched him remove his baseball hat and sweatshirt; a police dog found a 9 mm handgun in a bush near the shooting scene.
Burns told police he’d been drinking at home in the area when he heard gunshots “and ran from the house,” according to court documents.
Witnesses told police Grooms had been arguing with another man, Seki Bumpas, who was with Burns. Bumpas struck Grooms in the head with a bucket, then walked away “with Grooms following him and yelling at him,” according to court documents. Burns then pulled a handgun from his waistband and shot Grooms several times, police said.
Bumpas gave police “conflicting and confusing statements and denied he knew anything about a shooting,” court documents say.
Burns’ public defender said the shooting may have been self-defense, but Deputy Prosecutor George Gagnon said self-defense shooters don’t usually flee the scene and try to alter their appearance.
Becky Sawyer, Grooms’ girlfriend, described Grooms as “a social butterfly” who’d spent time with neighbors before and had no problems. But two neighbors who didn’t want their names used because they fear retribution called Grooms “the most hated man in the neighborhood.”
“We call him Bowie knife because he’d always walk around swinging a big machete,” one neighbor said. “He’s just a whack job. We can’t stress how bad this guy really is.”
Burns remains in jail on $60,000 bond after appearing in Superior Court via video from the jail. Court officials said they had conflicting information on where he lived – Burns said he was homeless, but his mother, Gloria Burns, verified a Los Angeles address as his home.
Huenke, Burns’ public defender, said he didn’t have a verified local address. But a woman who identified herself as Monica Green told Superior Court Judge Ellen Kalama Clark that Burns was welcome to stay with her at 14827 E. Mission Ave.
Sheriff’s detectives searched that home and an address at 2502 E. Marshall on Feb. 11 as part of the crack cocaine distribution probe.
Green declined to talk to a reporter.