Saunders pleads guilty to Southcenter Mall fatal shooting

A 23-year-old man pleaded guilty Monday to second-degree murder for the shooting death of a 17-year-old boy two years ago inside the Southcenter Mall in Tukwila.

A 23-year-old man pleaded guilty Monday to second-degree murder for the shooting death of a 17-year-old boy two years ago inside the Southcenter Mall in Tukwila.

Barry Lee Saunders entered the plea just one month before his scheduled trial in exchange for a shorter sentence.

King County prosecutors will recommend that Saunders be sentenced to 17 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder with a firearm enhancement and second-degree assault, according to the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office web site.

Saunders faces a sentencing range of 17 years to 25 years when he is sentenced before King County Superior Court Judge John Erlick at 1 p.m. Feb. 4 at the Norm Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent.

Saunders shot and killed Diaquan Jones at the crowded mall on Nov. 22, 2008. Jones died of a gunshot wound to the abdomen. Saunders also was charged with assault against Jermaine McGowan, a 15-year-old boy with Jones at the mall. McGownan was wounded by a gunshot but recovered at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

Video surveillance from a mall store recorded part of the shooting, including Saunders holding a handgun and Jones being shot, according to charging papers. The shooting apparently stemmed from an altercation in the mall involving several individuals from two distinct groups.

Tukwila Police with the help of Portland Police arrested Saunders four days after the shooting in Oregon. Saunders pleaded not guilty to the charges in December 2008.

Saunders remains in custody at the Norm Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent in lieu of $1 million bail.

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