Teen blinded by gunshot as rash of shootings threatens SR 509 motorists

Troopers investigating a shooting that left 4 cars withbullet holes along SR-509 on June 13, 2018. (KOMO Photo)

SEATTLE — Eleven separate shooting incidents have been reported along State Route 509 between Seattle and Burien, the Washington State Patrol said.

Vehicles and homes have been hit by gunfire in a rash of shootings since early summer. Now investigators are asking for the public's help in identifying who is responsible — including one shooting that hit a 14-year-old boy in the head causing him to lose his eyesight.

“Whether the shooting was accidental or deliberate, his life has been permanently altered, and his family’s life has been permanently altered,” said King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht.

The Washington State Patrol said the shooting that blinded the teen happened Thursday, Dec. 20, at about 11 p.m.

The family was heading south in their car on SR 509 just south of the 1st Avenue Bridge when the front passenger window was shot out. Their 14-year-old son was hit in the head and subsequently lost his vision.

“We can’t take away the pain but we can do our jobs and bring that family some relief —some justice," King County Undersheriff Scott Somers said.

WSP said the person responsible for the shooting may have observable reactions after learning of the teen's injuries, including sudden unexplained mood swings, intense interest in media coverage, increased drug or alcohol use or withdrawal from social and daily activities.

Authorities said this all began in June when multiple reports came in from people whose vehicles had been hit by gunfire in the area of SR 509 and South 160th Street, near Sea-Tac Airport.

At least four cars were hit on June 13, prompting the State Patrol to shut down SR 509 for more than five hours. The westernmost runway at Sea-Tac Airport was also closed out of an abundance of caution.

One of those bullets went through the windshield of Mary Ertl's car.

"I heard a boom and then glass all over my face," she told KOMO News. "I thought it was a rock until I looked at the passenger side, and then I knew it was a bullet. ... So I slowed down and called police."

A task force has been formed to investigate the shootings, comprised of the Washington State Patrol, the King County Sheriff's Office, Des Moines police and the Port of Seattle police, with assistance from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

"Law enforcement is confident there are members of our community who have information regarding the shootings and are asking for cooperation," the State Patrol said in a statement about the shootings. "Anyone with information is encouraged to contact law enforcement as the prevention of further incidents and injuries is paramount."

The number to call is (425) 401-7880. Persons with information can also send an email to SR509shootingtip@wsp.wa.gov.

The State Patrol said callers can remain anonymous, if wanted.

“We all have an obligation to make sure this does not happen again,” said Somers.

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