Police: Kent shooter killed 2 men 'over disrespect'

KENT, Wash. - A man accused of shooting two employees at a Kent gas station admitted to detectives he pulled the trigger and claims he did it to defend the honor of his friend who he said had moments before been the victim of racial slurs, according to investigators.

The suspected shooter was identified Thursday as Leland D. Russell, 29, whose criminal record shows previous arrests for burglary and felony harassment and a conviction for negligent driving.

Russell was arrested late Wednesday night and King County Jail records show Russell was booked at about 12:40 a.m. Thursday for investigation of two counts of homicide. During an initial court hearing Thursday, Russell was ordered held on $2 million bail.

Meanwhile, family members have identified one of the victims as 52-year-old Dave Christianson, who was the gas station manager.

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. Witnesses at the scene, including a gas station employee and customers, told KOMO News on Wednesday that the shooter and another man had pulled their Cadillac into the station to fuel up, but parked in a way that blocked other customers and their vehicles from accessing the pumps.

The passenger in the Cadillac got out and walked to the store, then two other men got into an argument with him outside the store about how the Cadillac was parked.

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.

Russell said that he and the construction workers got into a verbal argument that was joined by employees of the gas station.

Detectives say surveillance video shows as the passenger physically and verbally sparred with the gas station employees, Russell went back to his car to grab a gun, and then went and shot the two store employees at close range. Russell and his passenger then quickly drove away from the scene, police said.

The identification of the two allegedly involved in the case came from a lead developed during the police investigation, which led detectives to an address in Burien about 10 miles away from the gas station Wednesday night where Russell was eventually arrested.

Russell later admitted to 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.

'I hope he gets what he deserves'

In an interview Thursday with KOMO News, Russell's brother said he's angry for what his brother did.

"He had to do it to two innocent people. I'm so angry," said the brother, who didn't want his name used. "I hope he gets what he deserves."

Javier Lopez, a friend of Christianson, says he came to the gas station often and knows Russell too, in a bad sort of way.

"Unfortunately, that kid-- I had run into him at the beginning of the summer and he had pulled a gun on me," Lopez said, adding the confrontation didn't go beyond that.

But Russell's neighbor Laura Martinez said she saw none of that violent behavior, and five hours after the shooting he was calmly talking to her in their Burien neighborhood.

"All of a sudden sirens came on and he said, 'got to go' and took off into the house," Martinez said. He was later arrested without incident.

Kent police are still seeking the passenger for questioning, said Cmdr. Jarod Kasner. He says they know who he is but so far, Kent police have refused to release his identity.

Meanwhile, Russell's brother offered his family's help.

"Like to know, the two families, that I'm super sorry for what has happened. Our family is not like this," he said. "He may be the one like it, but if there's anything we can do help."

Christianson leaves behind his partner of 11 years and two adult daughters. The second victim's name has not been released.

Russell's next court appearance is scheduled for Aug. 25.