Kent man gets 20 years for fatal shooting in Auburn last May

An 18-year-old Kent man who shot to a death a 16-year-old boy at a backyard barbecue in Auburn May 22, 2011 was sentenced to 20 years in prison Friday in Judge Brian Gain's courtroom at the Norm Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent.

As part of a deal with prosecutors, James Mills pleaded guilty last month as charged to second-degree murder for killing Adrian Wilson, 16. The sentence range was 204 to 304 months.

Court officials, concerned that a large number of family members for both the shooter and the victim would appear in court to witness Friday's sentencing and that there might be some conflict during the victim impact statements, arranged for King County Sheriffs officers to stand by inside the facility, while Kent officers took charge of the exterior security. The hearing went without incident.

According to Auburn Police Detective Michelle Vojir's account, here is what happened.

On May 22, 2011, 911 received multiple reports of shots fired at the Aspen Meadows Apartments at 402 21st St. SE. Police responded, finding young Wilson dead on the ground in front of apartment No. 45.

Witnesses told police that Wilson and his family had been attending a community barbecue that afternoon in the common area of the complex. Shortly before the shooting, Corey Branham, who lived in apartment No. 42, showed up with Mills, who was armed.

Within minutes, Adrian Wilson confronted Mills about the weapon. He was walking toward Mills when Mills pulled out the weapon and fired, hitting Wilson once in the head. Branham told police he then ran into his apartment, and, when he looked out a short time later, saw people surrounding the fallen Wilson.

Medics later transported two other young men, Steven Chehey and Robert Carro-Aguilar, to Harborview Medical Center with life-threatening gunshot wounds, according to the police account. They survived.

Branham and other witnesses identified Mills as the person who had fired the fatal shot, and police began looking for him, according to the police account. Between 5 p.m., May 22 and 10 p.m., May 23, Auburn Police Department officers and detectives followed leads to track down Mills. At about 10 p.m., May 23, two officers arrived at the apartment of Mills' mother in Kent and watched as a thin, black female wearing sunglasses approached the door and knocked. When officers walked up to the female, she removed her purse, sunglasses and wig. When officers realized that it was Mills, they arrested him.

Mills later told officers that he had brought the gun to the apartment complex that fatal day to protect his girlfriend's mother. He told officers that the woman had issues with Adrian's father, Gabriel Wilson, whom Mills called "a bully." Mills told police, according to the account, that he had thought Wilson's group was trying to provoke a fight by hosting the barbecue directly outside the woman's apartment.

According to the police account, Mills said he had known that there was going to be trouble when he set out that afternoon, but that had not stopped him. Vojir then asked Mills why, if he knew there was going to be trouble, he didn't just leave."I'm not gonna run away from my problems," Mills responded, according to the police account. "I'm not getting punked, not gonna intimidate me. I'm gonna stay right there and do what I planned to do."

According to the police account, Mills told police that when Adrian Wilson and his brother walked up to him and started calling him names, he pulled the gun from his waistband and fired two shots. Mills said he then ran away, ending up at his brother's house.

Wilson died of a single gunshot wound, which had entered his chin and lodged in his spinal cord, according to the King County Medical Examiner.

According to the police account, Mills is a documented member of the Marvin Gangster Crips, an established criminal street gang, and Gabriel Wilson is a documented member of the Nortenos, a criminal street gang based in northern California. There is no known rivalry between the Nortenos and the Marvin Gangster Crips, Vojir wrote, but "beefs," she noted, often result from direct contact and confrontations between gangs."The presence of gang members of unrelated gangs set together in one place is a volatile situation requiring the members to adequately represent themselves before their peers. This situation would normally lead to gang member arming themselves before expected contact with members of the other gang set," Vojir wrote.

Mills was convicted in 2010 as a juvenile of second-degree assault and second-degree robbery.

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