Federal Way gunman charged at 17 in BB-gun attack on an ex
The man who a police source says killed four people at a Federal Way apartment complex before he was killed by police Sunday had been charged as a juvenile with shooting a former girlfriend with a BB gun, court records show.
Seattle Times staff reporter
When Dennis Clark III was 17, he allegedly shot a girl in the buttocks and back with a BB gun after she broke up with him, according to court documents filed in Snohomish County that read like an eerie foreshadowing of Sunday night’s fatal shootings in Federal Way.
In court papers, she described Clark as controlling, and said he had “an anger problem” and was known to carry a knife. He slapped the girl in the face during an argument and had also punched doors and walls, the 2002 records say.
Clark has been identified by a law-enforcement source as the man responsible for killing his 25-year-old girlfriend and three witnesses at a Federal Way apartment complex before he was fatally shot by police.
Though he did not have a criminal history, Clark had previously been reported to police in Seattle and Federal Way for allegations of domestic violence involving verbal abuse, but wasn’t arrested in either case because there were no allegations of assault, according to Federal Way Police Chief Brian Wilson.
Clark’s 25-year-old girlfriend was not the victim in either of the earlier reports, according to police.
One of Clark’s relatives said Tuesday that the Federal Way shootings seemed totally out of character for Clark, a 27-year-old student and UPS worker.
But Snohomish County court records in the August 2002 BB-gun incident offer a different glimpse of Clark’s personality.
At the time, both Clark and the girl, who was also 17, were students at Mariner High School, just south of Everett, according to the domestic-violence protection order the girl was ultimately granted.
Nearly a year after the girl was shot twice with the BB gun while walking home, Clark was charged as a juvenile with fourth-degree assault in the shooting and for allegedly shoving and grabbing her, court records show. It is unclear why it took so long for the charge to be filed.
Later in 2003, he was also charged with misdemeanor criminal trespass after showing up at the girl’s Everett apartment complex, where the manager had previously kicked him off the property and told him not to return, according to court records.
Clark repeatedly failed to show up for court dates, the records show. The assault and trespass cases were both dismissed in juvenile court after Clark turned 18 in November 2003.
It does not appear that he was recharged as an adult in Snohomish County District Court. It wasn’t immediately clear why.
Clark and the girl dated for five months before she ended the relationship, and “ever since the break up, Dennis has been angry with her,” the records say. After the BB-gun incident, Clark allegedly told the girl, “I’m not finished with you yet,” according to court records.
“I’m afraid of him. He’s gotten mad to the point I think he’s going to knock me out. He starts yelling and balling his hand,” the girl said in the records.
The girl also asked that Clark be ordered to surrender any weapons, including the BB gun, because “I’m afraid he’ll come after me with any weapon. He’s capable of doing it.”
When a Snohomish County sheriff’s deputy showed up at Clark’s Everett apartment, Clark said “he was no longer in possession of (the) BB gun” and had traded it for jewelry, the records say. Clark’s mother was “unable to locate weapon” in the apartment, records say.
The girl, who is now 28 and living in another state, could not be reached Tuesday.
“Begging for my life”
Seattle Times news partner KING-TV reported Tuesday that Clark had been dating another woman in addition to the woman killed Sunday night in Federal Way. The other girlfriend, who was unnamed, said an upset Clark came to her apartment last month, climbed on top of her and took her cellphone.
Neighbors called police when she screamed, she told KING-TV.
“I was begging for my life, saying please don’t hurt me,” she said.
Clark left before police could talk to him. Since the woman was not physically assaulted, Clark was not arrested, KING-TV reported.
Court records also show that Clark was arrested in March 2009 in Kent and later charged with harming a police dog. But the case was dismissed a year later after Clark successfully completed a deferred sentence, vacating the charge from his record.
Clark had been riding his bicycle when he passed a marked K-9 police cruiser and started barking at the police dog inside, according to the Kent police report. The dog became “extremely agitated” and began to run around inside the car, causing it “to shake back and forth from his weight,” the report says.
Clark ignored orders from the dog’s handler to stop but was stopped about a half-block away when the officer noticed a handgun sticking out of Clark’s waistband. Afraid for his safety and unsure of Clark’s intentions, the officer “slapped the handgun from the male’s waistband, causing it to fall to the ground,” the report says.
Clark was “extremely argumentative,” threatened to sue the officer if his gun was scratched and stated “he had a concealed-weapons permit and that there was nothing I could do to him,” according to the police report.
The officer determined that Clark did have a valid permit, and his gun — a Taurus .40-caliber semi-automatic — was returned to him, the report says.
“He was a good son”
Only one of the victims from Sunday’s shooting in Federal Way has been identified by the King County Medical Examiner’s Office: Ceasar Valdovinos, 23, who died from a gunshot wound to the trunk. According to police and Valdovinos’ relatives, he was visiting a friend at the apartment complex and was shot in the back while trying to run away from the gunman.
Valdovinos died in the parking lot of the Pinewood Village apartments, along with a 46-year-old man, according to police. A 62-year-old man, who had yelled to another neighbor to call 911, was fatally shot after Clark used a shotgun to breach the man’s door, then stepped inside and fired at him.
Clark, who was armed with a pistol-grip shotgun and a .40-caliber semi-automatic handgun, traded gunfire with responding officers, who arrived at the complex in the 33300 block of 18th Lane South around 9:35 p.m. Sunday.
Clark ran from the officers but then collapsed in the parking lot near Valdovinos and the 46-year-old, police said. He was fatally shot when he ignored the officers’ orders and reached for his handgun.
Clark’s 25-year-old girlfriend was later found dead inside the apartment the two shared.
The eight Federal Way police officers who fired at Clark have been placed on paid administrative leave, which is routine during an officer-involved shooting investigation.
Clark’s aunt, who asked not to be named, said she had met her nephew’s 25-year-old girlfriend several times at family barbecues and that she never saw anything amiss.
“We are confused,” she said. “We don’t understand what happened. It seems way out of his character.”
She said that Clark was working at UPS and going to school, though she was not sure what he was studying, and that he was one of those people that kids flocked to.
“He was a good son and a good nephew and kids loved him. They would climb on him whenever they saw him.”
She said her nephew did not have mental-health issues or addictions, as far as she knew.
“Something must have happened to him, but we don’t know what it was. There really isn’t that much we can say except we are so sorry for the other families.”
The Valley Investigation Team — made up of officers from several South King County police departments — is leading the investigation into the single deadliest incident in Federal Way’s history. It was unclear Tuesday if detectives were aware of the earlier BB-gun incident in Everett.
Seattle Times reporter Christine Clarridge and news researchers Miyoko Wolf and Gene Balk contributed to this report, which also includes information from Times archives.
Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or firstname.lastname@example.org