Federal Way was put into a state of terror in May 2016 when four men, unconnected to each other, were shot to death in the space of a month, the last three within hours of each other.
On Tuesday, Police Chief Andy Hwang announced at a press conference that a suspect has been identified in the killing spree, which included two Tacoma victims.
The suspect, Justice Henderson, already was in custody for the attempted murder of his grandmother's ex-boyfriend in Tacoma.
"We identified Henderson as a potential suspect in our crimes at about the same time he was taken into custody in 2016," Hwang said at a press conference at Federal Way City Hall. "Because Henderson was in custody and not a threat to society we held off disclosing his identify or charging him with Federal Way's homicide cases at the time."
That allowed Federal Way police and the King County Prosecutor's Office to build a case against Henderson, Hwang said. It also allowed them time to identify suspected accomplices.
The killings began April 3, 2016, when Jeffrey McLaren Jr., 19, of Federal Way was found dead in an parking lot. He had been shot multiple times.
On May 9, 2016, Alex Kelley, 26, of Seattle was found shot dead at another apartment complex. That same day Frank Cohens Jr., 27, of Tacoma was found slumped over the wheel of vehicle parked on South 333rd Street. He had been shot multiple times.
The next day Adam Gutierrez, 30, of Tacoma was found dead on a sidewalk on Southwest 356th Street. He also had been shot multiple times.
"It is important for the community to know that we are confident that the subject we have in custody is indeed responsible for the crimes I have described," Hwang said.
He said robbery was the motive in Cohens Jr.'s murder. After that, it became a killing spree, Hwang said.
The random nature of Gutierrez's death was immediately obvious, the chief said.
"It did create alarm within our police department, within our community," said Hwang, who at the time told residents to stay indoors at night.
"I didn't know if the killings would continue," he said.
Five days before the May 9 killings, Henderson knocked on the door of a residence on South 35th Street in Tacoma. When the 63-year-old resident answered Henderson shot him.
Henderson and an accomplice, Marchae Garrsion, both 17 at the time, burst through the door and continued shooting at the man as he tried to flee, police said. The victim survived the attack.
Henderson had told friends the man assaulted his grandmother in the past "and he was going to do something about it," according to police.
U.S. marshals arrested him July 11, 2016 , in connection with the Tacoma crime. He was tried as an adult and convicted of the attempted murder. He is serving a 12-year sentence.
In the Federal Way cases, investigators are recommending Henderson be charged with four counts of murder and two counts of robbery.
Garrison, who police say was implicated in McLaren Jr.'s death, will be charged with murder and robbery.
Kamajah "K.J." Skannal was implicated in Cohens' death, police say, and will be charged with murder and robbery.
Henderson and his accomplices had gang ties, Hwang said.
"This fairly small group formed on the west end of our town," he said. "They were committing violent crimes."
Police have "dismantled" the gang, the chief said.
Families of the victims attended the press conference.
McLaren.'s aunt, Lisa Wollum, said the sudden and random death of her nephew was extremely painful for her family.
"All along we've said we wanted justice for Jeffrey, not realizing that all of these were connected," she said.
McLaren was a creative musician who, Wollum said, was protective of his family.
"He was a happy spirit," she said. "It's hard to see that taken away at 19."
The identification of the suspect in her nephew's killing has brought some peace to the family, Wollum said.
"To know that this won't happen to another family . . . that really scared all of us," she said. "It was just random and could happen to anyone."