Murder suspect: Victims 'finally came across some real gangsters'

KENT, Wash. - A man accused of shooting two employees at a Kent gas station has been formally charged with two counts of first degree murder, prosecutors said Monday.

Leland D. Russell Jr., 29, is being held without bail in a King County Jail.

The double shooting unfolded at about 8:40 a.m. Wednesday at a Shell station and Wendy's restaurant in the 6400 block of 212th Street. Prosecutors say surveillance video shows Russell and his passenger arrived at the gas station with music blaring, then entered the store with a gas can to pay for some gas.

Prosecutors say the pair then left and reparked their Cadillac at the gas pump. After several minutes, the video shows Russell repositioned his car to park perpendicular to the gas pumps, prompting several conversations with other customers near the pumps, prosecutors said.

Eventually Russell reenters store and begins yelling at other customers and an employee, prosecutors said. A witness told detectives he heard Russell say to the employee at this point: "I am not afraid of shooting you. Watch what happens," according to court documents.

Store employee Carlos Gonzales asked both Russell and his passenger to leave, but Russell continued to argue, prosecutors said, referencing the surveillance video.

As Russell and passenger begin to leave, Gonzales and store manager Dave Christianson move to entrance of the store. The video shows Russell's friend returns and shoves Gonzales as Russell runs toward his car, prosecutors said. A physical fight then ensued between Gonzales and the passenger as Christianson tried to intervene and break apart.

The fight moved into the parking lot as Russell returned from his car with a gun. Prosecutors said Russell fired several several shots at Christianson and Gonzales at close range, killing them both.

Russell and his passenger ran back to their car and drove off.

Investigators were able to track Russell down and arrest him that night at a home in Burien, prosecutors said.

Court documents reveal that during questioning with detectives after his arrest, Russell, who is Hispanic, told investigators two construction workers at the station said racial slurs to him and his passenger, who is black. The slurs were repeated again when they went into the gas station, Russell claimed. But prosecutors brushed off that claim, writing in court documents there were several witnesses that indicated Russell and his friend were "rude, provocative and combative toward customers and Shell Station employees for several minutes."

Russell also told detectives the fight was over disrespect and that he had to shoot the victims because if he didn't, his passenger's family would kill him for not standing up for his friend. He later admitted he met the passenger a few days earlier but claimed he had to protect anyone that "rode with him" and they were all "bloods."

According to prosecutors, Russell said the victims "finally came across some real gangsters, sad to say."

Russell is also under investigation for chasing a driver while wielding a gun about an hour and a half before the shootings. A woman said Russell got out of his car after she honked at him and chased her as she backed up and tried to get away. Prosecutors say Russell pointed a gun at her until she was able to frantically speed away. Prosecutors say Russell has been investigated twice before for confronting drivers with a gun, including this May.

If convicted, Russell faces a sentencing range of 50-63 years in prison, prosecutors said.

His next court appearance is scheduled for Sept. 4.