KENT, Wash. — Almost three days after an illegal street race ended in gunfire, Kent's city leader is sitting down with KING5 to get the community's questions answered.
Illegal street races featuring dangerous burnouts, skids and donuts are drawing massive crowds every weekend on East Valley Highway and South 180th Street, according to business owners and people living nearby. The activity starts to ramp up when the weather warms up.
In the wake of Sunday's violence, business owners told KING 5 they are fearful of what will happen during the three-day holiday weekend.
"Kids running around with guns, and shooting, I mean, this is like their playground," said a business owner who did not want to be identified for her own safety. "The police that morning told me there was a thousand people here.”
But those police, she said, did not respond until after the shooting.
"I’ve seen no police presence... I didn’t see any lights until after there were actually shots."
She said she is fed up with the worsening problem.
“If something does not happen, and actions are not taken, I’m not going to be inclined to be a business owner in Washington state," she said.
She is pleading with the city and her landlord to make structural or environmental changes to prevent the racing.
"I don’t understand why there can’t be police in the parking lot before they start to accumulate as a deterrent," she said.
We took that question to Kent Mayor Dana Ralph.
"I think we’re very concerned that it’s gonna happen [again]," said Ralph. "We see them back every weekend. The trouble with staging a police car, is, I don’t know that staging a police car on a corner is much of a deterrent. And my officers are out responding to a variety of other calls.”
She said the Kent Police Department does not have enough staff to safely respond to the number of people in these dangerous crowds-- and to other police calls in the city-- simultaneously.
"Shots fired, cars ramming each other, it becomes very unsafe for, not only the community, but for the officers we’ve got responding. And I have a duty to keep both our police officers and our community safe," said Ralph.
She added, “We have a responsibility not to incite additional commotion, we have a responsibility to keep our officers safe," she said. "We’re gonna continue using the tools that we currently have. We’ll continue to have a presence there. We will be meeting with the business owners in upcoming weeks to work on environmental things that we can do, whether it be speedbumps in parking lots, or gates.”
A Kent police officer told KING 5 he is meeting with the Washington State Patrol this week to learn whether they can borrow some troopers to help in their response to the overwhelming crowds.