Tukwila Police Chief Mike Villa addresses recent shootings in the city during a community meeting on Aug. 29. Heidi Sanders/Tukwila Reporter

Tukwila Police discuss recent shootings, crime at community meeting

Despite three shootings in one week last month in Tukwila – including a homicide – police say overall violent crime in the city seems to be down.

Despite three shootings in one week last month in Tukwila – including a homicide – police say overall violent crime in the city seems to be down.

“Yes, we had a bad week – a really bad week,” Tukwila Police Chief Mike Villa told community members during an Aug. 29 meeting. “Somebody died during that week, but there is not a trend.”

Coordinated by the Neighbors Without Borders Action Committee, the meeting at Tukwila’s Riverton Park Methodist Church included representatives from the Tukwila and SeaTac police departments.

Residents requested the meeting to find out more about the shootings, and Villa appreciated the community’s interest.

“I would be concerned if no one else was concerned,” he said. “I would be concerned if we had a shooting in Tukwila, a homicide in Tukwila and an officer-involved shooting in Tukwila, and really nobody cared. But you guys cared.”

Although he couldn’t say much since the incidents are open investigations, Villa provided those in attendance with an update on each case.

• On Aug. 10, a 34-year-old man with a gunshot wound was found in the back yard of a residence near South 140th Street and Military Road South. Police believe the man was shot about a block from where he collapsed.

• Tukwila Police officers shot and killed a man following an hour-long standoff on Aug. 11 at an apartment complex on South 152nd Place. The standoff started after police confronted the man about an altercation that ended in a shooting.

“We are very thankful to say none of our officers were injured and are OK,” Villa said. “Those are one of those calls I receive as chief, and my heart kind of sinks until I find out the officer is OK.”

• Bryan Dominguez-Navarro, 18, who was set to begin his senior year at Foster High School this month, was shot and killed while sitting in a vehicle in a parking lot on South 144th Street on Aug. 14. A 24-year-old man was also seriously injured in the shooting. Treston D. Baladez-Carrillo, 20, was charged in connection with the shooting with first-degree murder, first-degree assault and first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm by the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office on Sept. 16.

“None of these, as far as we can tell… were related,” Villa said. “It’s not there’s one individual or set of individuals going around terrorizing Tukwila.”

Violent crime down

Tukwila averages two homicides per year, Villa said. Dominguez-Navarro’s death is the first confirmed homicide in the city in 2016, although there is a suspicious death still under investigation, Villa said.

“We don’t know if it is a homicide,” he said.

Robberies in the city were at a 15-year low in 2015, Villa said.

There were 62 robberies reported last year, down 39 percent from 2011.

Aggravated assaults were down 19 percent between 2014 and 2015.

The number of robberies and aggravated assaults reported in the first half of 2016 were about the same as last year, Villa said.

“We don’t want to see any robberies,” he said. “We don’t want to see any aggravated assaults, but these are a lot better than they were four to five years ago.”

Although burglary isn’t considered a violent crime, police pay close attention to the statistics, Villa said.

“It is crime that impacts residents,” he said. “If you’ve ever had your house broken into, if you’ve ever been burglarized, it’s really violating. It makes you feel really vulnerable.”

In 2015, the number of burglaries was 56 percent lower than five years before, with 92 reported – a 10-year low, Villa said.

“This year we have less than that so far,” he said. “Those number of residential burglaries are really phenomenal for us, as far the city of Tukwila in what we have experienced in years past.”

Police chiefs in other South King County cities have reported a rise in gun violence, but Tukwila hasn’t experienced that, Villa said.

“With our location, with Seattle just to our north … we are going to get some of that into Tukwila. But we have tremendous staff, and when we start to see some of those upticks, we are going to put pressure on that,” he said.

Along Tukwila International Boulevard near the light rail station, police have seen an increase activity – not violent crime, but prostitution and drug-related incidents, Villa said.

“We don’t want to bury our heads in the sand and say, ‘The stats say everything is good, so everything is good,'” he said. “No, we’ve seen it. We’ve noticed it. … We are addressing those issues.”

Tearing down motels on Tukwila International Boulevard near South 144th Street – known hot spots for illegal activity – helped reduce crime there, Villa said.

The police department has also increased the number of officers in the area, adding bicycle patrols.

“It is not because our budget’s low that we have to give them bikes, not cars,” Villa said. “We actually planned that.”

Having a presence in the community is important, Villa said.

“Tukwila is ahead of the curve when it comes to community policing,” he said. “The one area where we have a significant gap is social media and communication out to the community.”

The department plans to increase its social media presence in the coming months.

“That’s something we recognize we need to do a better job of, getting communication out to the citizens, the community,” Villa said. “That is going to help us, even in the fight against crime, to have that dialogue going back and forth, you guys telling us what is going on and us pushing out information as well.”

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