By Mitchell Roland

During Tuesday’s (May 18, 2021) Kent City Council meeting, Kent Police Chief Rafael Padilla gave updates on an officer-involved shooting, a homicide at a Kent hookah lounge and on the city’s efforts to combat street racing.

Officer-involved shooting
According to Padilla, at approximately 9:40 p.m. on May 10, officers attempted to arrest a male who was “associated with a stolen vehicle” at the Homestead Apartments in the Panther Lake area of Kent’s east hill. While attempting to flee the scene, the suspect’s vehicle struck a Kent police vehicle. A Kent police officer fired their gun at the suspect, hitting him.

According to Padilla, the suspect does not have life-threatening injuries.

No officers were harmed in the incident. The officer who fired their gun was placed on leave, which Padilla said is standard procedure for the department.

“I requested the Valley Independent Investigation Team to do the independent investigation, which is ongoing,” Padilla.

Padilla said he is scheduled he receive an update on the investigation next week. Padilla also said the “criminal part of this case [on the male suspect] is being sent over to the King County Prosecutors.”
Following Padilla’s briefing, the investigation of the officer’s actions will be referred to the prosecutor’s office for review.

Update on homicide
During the meeting, Padilla also provided an update on a homicide at the Lux Hookah Lounge in the Kent valley. Officers arrived on the scene at approximately 6:30 a.m. on May 16, and they soon located a male in the bathroom with multiple gunshot wounds.

“They attempted, vigorously, life-saving efforts, but unfortunately he did not survive,” Padilla said.

Additionally, a second male who had a gunshot wound on his hand was given medical care and sent to the hospital.

“Our detectives spent most of that day processing the crime scene and following up on all available leads, and that investigation continues,” Padilla said.

Padilla said there have been other incidents at Kent hookah bars recently. Mayor Dana Ralph has instructed several department heads, including Padilla and the city attorney, to find solutions to combat the problem. Padilla said there would be “more to come” on these efforts.

Update on street racing investigations
Padilla said a partnership investigation and emphasis with Washington State Patrol and several other local departments led to the Kent Police Department taking 29 people into custody.

“The problem grew during the pandemic and took on a new form where they were more aggressive. Taking over freeways, major intersections, you know, surrounding police cars,” Padilla said. “So, it became a bigger issue, and more dangerous on top of it.”

Padilla said the 29 individuals face over 220 combined charges. Among the charges are vehicular assault and reckless driving, and Padilla said spectators, racers and organizers are among those facing charges.
“The message we want everyone to hear is ‘we found ways to combat this issue. We may not be able to get you on the spot, but sooner or later we will locate you and we will prosecute you for illegal street racing,’” Padilla said.

During a question-and-answer period, Padilla said there were several cars impounded because of the investigation. Padilla said these cars “were the ones directly related to the racing.”

“The cars are the key. And we look at models out of say California where they are putting significant holds, you know 30 plus days, 45 days on the vehicles,” Padilla said. “Something like that does not exist currently, we do not have the authority in Washington State. But it would definitely make a big impact if that was something we could use, for sure.”

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