At a news conference Monday, Federal Way Police Chief Brian Wilson said the shooting spree began about 9:30 p.m. when a man shot and killed his girlfriend in the unit where they lived together at Pinewood Apartments.
Law enforcement sources say 28-year-old Dennis Clark allegedly then went out into the parking lot where he confronted two other men and shot them both to death. Neither victim knew the gunman or his girlfriend, and one was shot in the back while trying to run away, officials said.
Wilson said Clark also used a shotgun to blast open the door and murder a 62-year-old man inside a neighboring apartment after the man who lived there yelled for someone to call 911. The victim, a disabled vet, was known in the building as "the Bird Man" because he enjoyed feeding nearby birds.
Neighbor Ronald Brown saw the whole violent episode unfold.
"He shot the door then kicked in the door then that's when I heard the gun blast," he said.
Investigators believe Clark may have been trying to kill witnesses, according to Wilson.
Police officers raced to the scene and could hear shots still being fired as they arrived at the apartment complex.
Wilson said they confronted Clark, who was armed, in a stairwell and fired several shots at him, wounding him, but he ran off. Officers regrouped and found the now injured Clark a short distance away on the ground in the parking lot near where two of the other bodies were located.
As the officers approached, Clark reached for a handgun and refused the officers' orders to not grab the weapon, Wilson said. When he continued to reach for the gun, several officers opened fire, killing him.
"I just heard a couple gunshots going off and then all of a sudden it was like an automatic weapon going off. Bop- Bop- Bop- Bop- Bop- Bop- like a war going on over here," said resident John Hoffmeister.
Wilson said no officers were hurt, but it was not clear if Clark actually fired any shots at police.
Many people who live in the apartments lost friends, but Sylvia Valdovino lost her 23-year-old son, Ceasar. He and another man were gunned down in the parking lot.
Clark had a history of domestic disputes in Seattle and Federal Way, but they did not result in criminal charges and he had a valid permit to carry a concealed weapon, according to Wilson.
Those previous domestic violence incidents did not involve the woman who was murdered on Sunday. Wilson said Clark was listed in internal police records with a caution note due to his history violence and tendency to carry weapons.
A total of eight officers fired their weapons during the confrontation on Sunday. All have been placed on administrative leave, per standard policy, as the investigation continues.
The names of Clark's 25-year-old girlfriend, and three other men who were killed, have not been released.