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An argument over a parking spot escalated into a fatal shooting at a Kent apartment complex, police say

April 9, 2021 Updated Fri., April 9, 2021 at 8:06 p.m.

By Sara Jean Greene Seattle TImes

SEATTLE – Melvin Wilson and his girlfriend were leaving her apartment complex to grab food early Sunday when they spotted a tow truck and stopped to ask a woman, who was in the parking lot of the Alderbrook Apartments in Kent, Washington, if she needed help, according to King County prosecutors.

Their encounter quickly devolved into an argument about a parking spot and the woman called her boyfriend to the lot, where he fired seven shots, killing Wilson as Wilson attempted to flee, says the second-degree murder charge filed Wednesday against the accused gunman, 18-year-old Koby Cornelious.

Wilson’s killing was the second of three shootings this year at the apartment complex, located in the 400 block of Novak Lane. In January, two men were shot in the parking lot and one of them is still a patient at Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center, Kent Assistant Police Chief Jarod Kasner said.

On Monday, the day after Wilson was gunned down, Kent police returned to the complex to investigate the fatal shooting of Laquana Green, a 37-year-old woman who died from multiple gunshot wounds inside an apartment there, according to Kasner and the King County Medical Examiner’s Office. Kasner said the three shootings are not related.

According to the second-degree murder charge filed against Cornelious, his girlfriend had called for a tow truck to remove a car parked in her parking spot – and Wilson and his girlfriend challenged her decision to call a tow, pointing out that many of the complex’s residents are low-income people and the tow fees would be financially burdensome to whoever owned the car, charging papers say. The woman verbally attacked Wilson and hurled racial slurs at him in a heated argument that was video-recorded by other residents around 2 a.m., according to the charges.

As things were calming down and Wilson was walking away, the woman called him a racial slur and he yelled at her not to say that word. “At this point and for no known reason, the defendant opened fire and shot his gun three times at the victim,” King County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Lakeysha Washington wrote in charging papers.

As Wilson fell to the ground and tried to get away from Cornelious, “the defendant walked towards the victim and shot his gun four more times while the victim was fleeing, ultimately killing the victim,” Washington wrote.

After the shooting, Cornelious and his girlfriend fled to their apartment in the complex’s “E” building, the charges say. Cornelious was arrested a short time later and remains jailed in lieu of $2 million bail, jail and court records show.

He has no known criminal history and court records do not indicate whether he has an attorney. Cornelious is to be arraigned April 21.

According to the charges, Wilson and Cornelious are both Black; the charges note Cornelious’ girlfriend does not appear to be Black but don’t say what her race is. Wilson was unarmed and police did not find any weapons in a search of his girlfriend’s vehicle, say the charging papers. The gun used to shoot Wilson hasn’t been recovered, but police found seven 9 mm shell casings in the parking lot that matched ammunition found hidden under a mattress in Cornelious’ apartment, according to the charges.

Earlier this year, two men had been shot in the parking lot of the same apartment complex, Kasner, Kent’s assistant police chief, confirmed Thursday. The Jan. 29 shooting, which is believed to have been drug-related, was reported to Kent police by Renton police after the two men, both 20, showed up at Valley Medical Center in Renton with gunshot wounds. One of them remains at Harborview Medical Center, he said. No arrests have been made.

Kent police returned to the Alderbrook Apartments just after 4:30 p.m. Monday to investigate the shooting death of Green, who was identified by the medical examiner on Thursday. A 23-year-old man told detectives he and the woman had argued before he shot her.

Kasner said the 23-year-old lives at the complex and may have been allowing Green to stay with him.

“There have been no arrests as detectives and prosecutors go over the evidence and witness accounts of what took place,” Kasner said.

Tericca Akens, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, said in a phone interview that she is Green’s first cousin and Green lived with Akens’ family for a time in California when Green was in middle school.

Green struggled with drug addiction and had done a number of stints in jail and prison, Akens said. The mother of three, Green was about to become a first-time grandmother.

“She really did have a good heart. She had a rough life, and it seems her rough life caught up with her,” Akens said. “It’s heartbreaking because I don’t think she got the chance to redeem herself spiritually … Life wasn’t fair for her. I hope her afterlife is better.”

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