A shooting that left five people dead at a Federal Way apartment complex Sunday started as a case of domestic violence, police said Monday. It ended with a woman the suspect was living with and three innocent bystanders dead before police shot and killed the suspect.
Officers responded to 911 calls at 9:30 p.m. at Pinewood Village in the 33300 block of 18th Lane S.
The suspect, identified by a law enforcement source as 28-year-old Dennis Clark III, shot and killed his girlfriend.
Police say he then went to the parking lot, where he shot two men who confronted him.
One of those men was Caesar Valdovinos, 24, who didn't live in the apartments but did live nearby.
His shooting was likely witnessed by a resident and the building's unofficial block watch captain.
The 62-year-old came out to see the violence, then shouted to a neighbor to call 911 before heading back inside his apartment.
Police say the gunman chased that person down, first blowing through his door with a shotgun before shooting the man at point blank range.
"He shot the door, kicked in the door and that's when I heard the gun blasts,” said Ronald Brown, who told his 4-year-old son to get in the bathtub of their nearby apartment.
He too had seen the shootings in the parking lot and feared he might be next.
"I looked through the peek hole. I could see he was still coming up stairs. I didn't know if he was going to kick in some more doors. I was scared at that point. I didn't know what was going to happen,” he said.
But police arrived before the man could kill anyone else. Investigators say when he refused to obey their orders they killed him - much to the relief of his neighbors.
"I'm glad the police made it here when they got here because I didn’t know what was going to happen,” said Brown.
"I don't want to believe it's my son right there," said Sylvia Valdovinos, Caesar's mother, "I don't want to believe this is happening to us.
Valdovinos leaves behind his girlfriend and a one-year-old daughter. He was in the parking lot when the suspect confronted him. Police say he was likely in the wrong place at the wrong time.
"Just put all lyour faith in God, hoping that he's with God right now, in a better place and not suffering anymore," said Valdovinos.
Police say Clark had a valid concealed weapons permit. He had no prior criminal history, but was involved in two previous domestic violence calls in Seattle and Federal Way. Those involved women who were not the same as the victim of Sunday’s shooting. A court computer search turned up a domestic violence petition filed against him in 2002, but was dropped days later. Clark would have been a juvenile at the time.
Federal Way Police said they had the suspect in their records with a “caution” because of his DV history and because he was known to carry firearms.
Eight Federal Way Police officers are on paid administrative leave, which is standard procedure after an officer-involved shooting.
The Auburn Police Department is conducting the investigation.