Devin Topps, a former football standout at Kentridge High School and member of Eastern Washington University’s 2010 recruiting class, was beaten and shot to death early Sunday morning, after a fight broke out following a Halloween party he had attended in north Kent.
Topps signed a national letter of intent to play for the Eagles despite missing most of his senior season with an injury. But he failed to meet the NCAA’s academic requirements and, according to EWU head coach Beau Baldwin, was still in the process of trying to become eligible to accept the full-ride scholarship he had been offered.
Baldwin said he was “saddened tremendously” by the news of Topps’ violent and tragic death.
“He was someone we got to know a little bit through recruiting,” Baldwin added, “and even though he wasn’t able to get into school in the fall, he still had aspirations of going to college.
“He was taking classes to try to get his grades up and potentially get in at a later date, whether it be winter, spring or even next year. You always hate to see unnecessary tragedies like that happen.”
A Seattle Times story, citing police reports, said Topps and some of his friends were leaving the Halloween party when they were approached by another group of males walking up from the street. A verbal exchange followed and quickly escalated into threats, and at some point at least one of the suspects reportedly pulled a handgun.
Several shots were reportedly fired as Topps and his friends attempted to flee, but Topps, who police said was unarmed, was unable to reach his pickup that was parked nearby after collapsing with at least one gunshot wound.
King 5 News in Seattle talked to Scott Leeson, a neighbor of party host Jose Gomez, who claimed to have witnessed the entire event and saw Topps being beaten before he was shot.
“Hit him about three times, pistol whipped him in the back of the head, he fell on a car, he just didn’t have nowhere to go,” Leeson told King 5 News. “It escalated down the road to where he spent his last moment laying on the cold, rainy ground.”
Topps 16-year-old cousin, Aallyah Topps, who was at the party, told King 5 News he did not recognize the shooter, but insisted the confrontation was no accident.
“They were sitting out here waiting for him,” he said of the uninvited guests. “They were arguing over football.”
Police told the Seattle Times they are looking for two or more males, of Asian or Hispanic descent and in their late teens to early 20s, as people of interest.
Two of Topps’ former teammates at Kentridge – Russell Turpin, a redshirt freshman offensive lineman, and Dylan Zystra, a freshman defensive lineman – are currently on Eastern’s roster.
Zystra was a member of the same EWU recruiting class as Topps, who was named a first-team All-South Puget Sound League North Division linebacker following his junior year in 2009.
When Eastern announced Topps, a 6-foot-2, 215-pounder as one of its 2010 recruits, the school released the following statement from Baldwin:
“He’ll compete right away, because he has the combination of great size and athletic ability at his position. His skill set from the linebacker position to blitz and rush the passer is really impressive. We plan on keeping him on the outside within our scheme… He shows his athleticism in a variety of ways, and on top of that, he’s tough and a great football player.”