Questions linger in months after lethal shootings

January 18, 2011

By Dona Mokin

Gunshots interrupted the summer hubbub at Lake Sammamish State Park just after sunset last July 17. The picnics and twilight dips in the lake clamored to a halt as a fistfight escalated into a firefight.

In the six months since gunfire pierced the summer night, the lethal shootout at the packed Issaquah park has defied easy answers. The investigation remains open, but tips to the King County Sheriff’s Office dried up not long after the incident.

Now, King County Medical Examiner’s Office reports, court documents, and accounts from law enforcement officers and park rangers offer a glimpse at the chaos inside the park amid the firefight and the ensuing investigation.

Yang Keovongphet, 33, a Laotian immigrant and a Kent resident employed in manufacturing, and Justin Cunningham, 30, a native Seattleite and a mechanic, died in the shootout.

Investigators hope ballistics tests help determine the shooter or shooters. Sgt. John Urquhart, sheriff’s office spokesman, urged observers to hold off on speculation until the investigation concludes — despite reports identifying either dead man as a shooter.

The investigation timeline remains uncertain, because the process has slowed as the state crime laboratory toils to process evidence in the case. The results could remain unavailable until almost a year after the incident.

The long backlog at the understaffed and underfunded Washington State Patrol crime laboratories means evidence needed for upcoming trials or to charge jailed suspects receives more immediate attention.

“It’s not like ‘CSI’ by any stretch of the imagination,” Urquhart said. “It just doesn’t work that way.”

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DUI crash snarls traffic, injures commuters

September 28, 2010

State troopers said a suspected drunken driver caused a crash — and a mileslong traffic backup during the Sept. 24 morning commute — on Interstate 90 near Issaquah.

The crash injured the seven occupants of a King County Metro Transit Rideshare van traveling from Redmond to Snoqualmie.

Washington State Patrol investigators said the suspect, 26-year-old Issaquah resident Douglas Henderson, rear-ended the van, a Chevrolet Uplander, in the high-occupancy vehicle lane at 5:35 a.m.

The impact pushed the Uplander from the right side of the interstate near West Lake Sammamish Parkway Southeast. The vehicle then rolled into a ditch.

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Overnight blaze damages Chinese restaurant

July 13, 2010

Cleaning crews scour the air ducts at Cascade Garden after fire damaged the Chinese restaurant overnight July 9.

Flames damaged a Chinese restaurant along Northwest Gilman Boulevard early July 9.

Eastside Fire & Rescue crews responded to a small fire at Cascade Garden, 1580 N.W. Gilman Blvd., at about 1:15 a.m.

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Overnight blaze damages Chinese restaurant

July 9, 2010

UPDATED — 4:45 p.m. July 9, 2010

Flames damaged a Chinese restaurant along Northwest Gilman Boulevard early Friday morning.

Eastside Fire & Rescue crews responded to a small fire at Cascade Garden, 1580 N.W. Gilman Blvd., at about 1:15 a.m.

Owner Andy Liu was cleaning up the restaurant the afternoon after the fire. He said he had closed the restaurant at about 10 the previous night.

“I made sure everything was cleaned before I left last night. I didn’t smell anything,” he said. “I got a call at 1:45 in the morning. I showed up and saw the fire trucks.”

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Man drowns at Lake Sammamish State Park

June 29, 2010

Eastside Fire & Rescue Chaplain Shelley Frey (right) comforts the wife and 5-year-old son of Geronimo Morales, 23, of Seattle, as paramedics perform CPR on him June 24 in an aid car and prepare to transport him to Overlake Hospital Medical Center. By Greg Farrar

Lake Sammamish, still cold for swimmers despite sunshine and balmy temperatures on land, claimed a Seattle man late last week during a family outing at the state park.

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Local man dies in Tiger Mountain Road crash

March 30, 2010

Kenneth Solders

A motorcycle driver died March 20 after he struck a pickup just south of Issaquah.

Authorities said a Toyota Tundra was headed eastbound on a stretch of Tiger Mountain Road at about 1:15 p.m. When the 18 year-old driver of the truck made a left-hand turn from Tiger Mountain Road onto 241st Place Southeast, the motorcycle struck the truck. Authorities said the driver apparently did not the see the westbound motorcycle.

The motorcycle struck the right rear of the truck. The impact threw the motorcycle driver more than 50 feet. Read more

Issaquah man dies in motorcycle accident on Tiger Mountain Road

March 24, 2010

NEW — 1:45 p.m. March 24, 2010

A motorcycle driver died Saturday after he struck a pickup just south of Issaquah.

Authorities said a Toyota Tundra was headed eastbound on a winding stretch of Tiger Mountain Road at about 1:15 p.m. Saturday. When the 18 year-old driver made a left-hand turn onto 241st Place Southeast, the motorcycle struck the truck. The driver apparently did not the see westbound motorcycle.

The motorcycle struck the right rear of the truck. The impact threw the motorcycle driver more than 50 feet.

Bellevue firefighters and the King County Sheriff’s Office said the driver, Issaquah resident Kenneth Earl Solders, 57, died at the scene. He wore a full-face helmet.

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EFR volunteer Chris Merritt retires after 38 years

November 3, 2009

Ron Pedee, Eastside Fire & Rescue Board of Directors chairman (left), presents Chris Merritt with a commemorative fire extinguisher in honor of his decades as a volunteer. By J.B. Wogan

Ron Pedee, Eastside Fire & Rescue Board of Directors chairman (left), presents Chris Merritt with a commemorative fire extinguisher in honor of his decades as a volunteer. By J.B. Wogan

Of all the sad, happy and adventurous stories Chris Merritt could tell about his 38 years working for the local fire and rescue service, perhaps none of them have been as profound as the story about the time he decided to become a volunteer paramedic.

It was 1971 and he was 15. He accompanied his father, Jim Merritt, and some plateau firefighters to a house fire because he wanted to see what it was like. He witnessed the walls collapse as the blaze tore the home apart. Merritt said the homeowner stood in front of the destroyed house, having lost everything. The man had escaped in time, but part of his suit had been burned off of his back.

That was the pivotal moment, he said.

“Dad turned to me and said, ‘This man just lost everything he owns and ever cared about,’” Merritt said. “Dad said, ‘If you choose a career in public service, you’ll never regret it.’” Read more

Issaquah family loses everything in house fire

December 22, 2008

Firefighters battled a house fire at 4721 192nd Place S.E. for hours Dec. 21, but were unable to save it.

The owners of the home, a man and his pregnant wife, and their 1-year-old son, were not home. They were at a relative’s house having dinner. The family’s dog was outside the home, but was unharmed. Read more

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