Southcenter Mall gunman gets 17-year prison term

Southcenter Mall gunman gets 17-year prison term
TUKWILA, Wash. - The man accused of killing one teen and wounding another in a 2008 shooting at Westfield Southcenter Mall has been sentenced to 17 years in prison.

Barry L. Saunders Jr., 23, was sentenced Friday in King County Superior Court at the Norm Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent. It was at the low end of the sentencing range sought by prosecutors in the case.

The sentencing came after Saunders pleaded guilty in December to second-degree murder and second-degree assault.

The Nov. 21, 2008, shootings left 16-year-old Daiquan L. Jones dead and another boy, also 16, wounded.

At Friday's sentencing, Saunders tearfully apologized to the families of the victims, and said he pulled the trigger that fateful day "out of ignorance - I just reacted."

"I'm sorry for your loss," he told the family in court through his tears. "When I hear things like the plans that Daiquan had, it hurts me. ... We all should have that chance and I took it away from him."

In court documents, police say that video surveillance at the Escape Outdoors store in the Westfield Southcenter mall shows Saunders shooting the two boys as they attacked his younger brother and a friend.

Saunders' attorney earlier claimed Saunders was shopping elsewhere in the mall when he got a call for help from his teenage brother. His brother told him that Jones, the injured teen and two other boys were taunting him and a friend and making threatening comments.

After the shooting, Tukwila detectives learned that Saunders might have headed to Oregon and notified authorities there. Portland police arrested Saunders while investigating an unrelated disturbance.

The shooting capped a violent weekend during which 11 people were shot in the Puget Sound area. Police said at the time that many of the shootings, including the violence at the mall, stemmed from rivalries between street gangs.

Jones and the injured teen had ties to a South Seattle street gang, according to court papers. Authorities have claimed Saunders had ties to a Central District gang, though his attorney disputed those assertions.

Saunders remains jailed pending sentencing, currently scheduled for Feb. 4 at the Norm Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent. Prosecutors are expected to request a 17-year prison sentence.