KENT, Wash. — Five people were shot at a street race in Kent early Sunday morning, according to the Renton Police Department who also responded to the scene.
While investigating a collision at around 1:15 a.m. on Sunday, a patrol sergeant heard gunfire coming from the direction of East Valley Highway and South 180th Street. The intersection was full of hundreds of street racers and spectators, according to police.
When Renton officers arrived to help, they discovered five people had been shot and injured on the Kent side of the intersection. The victims are all receiving treatment at local hospitals.
Renton police had responded to a shooting at a different street race in the same area the night before.
A Renton Fire Department truck was caught in the street racing crowd Friday night, according to a tweet from the Renton Firefighters IAFF Local 864 union. The union said street racers gather at the same intersection every weekend, causing a persistent safety issue.
Nick Nason lives just up the road from where the street racing was taking place. He agreed that street racing is a recurring issue in the area.
"During the weekend, this is their hang-out place," he said. "During the summertime seems to be the worst ... we hear things all the time, I mean, people getting shot and stuff like that.”
At Northwest Auto Empire, owner Florencio Coria is frustrated by what's happening in front of his business.
"Literally right in front. You can see all of the tire marks," said Coria.
The marks, he said, are a reminder of a dangerous and unruly weekend near the intersection of 180th and East Valley Highway.
"The bullet hole came in, it looked like it came in sideways," he said as he showed the damage to a mailbox and one vehicle.
It's daunting for Coria, who is still unpacking. He just moved into this space two months ago.
"We were having this this activity up in Seattle, and that's the main reason we moved here to kind of get away from that," he said.
But now, every Friday and Saturday, he said there's street races near his business.
"They just nonstop all night from 12 to 4 in the morning. It is just what goes on around here," he said. "They actually stand on my cars to get a better look at the what's going on in the streets. We haven't even been here two months. We've gotten three hoods dented, we've had car stolen. I'm hoping the city again steps up and does something about It."
"Somebody's going to get hurt. It's happened before. It's going to keep happening," Coria said.
Renton Regional Fire Authority's Chief Steve Heitman said in a statement, "while our team has trained and prepared for all types of incidents, these situations are unprecedented ... These violent incidents are unacceptable"
In the meantime, Kent police are investigating and waiting with bated breath for a state law to go into effect next year that would allow authorities to impound street racers’ cars for 72 hours.
"It breaks that cycle," said Mayor Dana Ralph in her testimony to legislators. "We are seeing those cars come back. They’ve been cited on a Friday and they’re back and racing on Saturday, so we’re hoping that this can serve as a deterrent."
Kent Police Chief Rafael Padilla spoke in favor of the bill, which Gov. Jay Inslee signed earlier this year.
"It’s growing because there isn’t adequate deterrent to this event," Padilla said in his testimony to lawmakers.
Under the new law, a second offense would require a forfeit of the car after a conviction, and it allows promoters and organizers of street racing events to be charged and prosecuted as an accomplice.
But until the law goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2024, Nason said he has little faith that police will be able to put a stop to the street racing.
"It's only gonna get worse before anything gets better, right?" Nason said.
Nason's message to the street racers is this: "Get a life, ya know? Find something else to do.”