‘The prosecution system is extremely behind’: Kent mayor calls for change amid surge in gun violence

KENT, Wash. — After a string of shootings in Kent, the mayor has called on county officials for help in fixing the judicial system.

“[It’s a] Combination of philosophy and Covid, we’re not seeing people held in custody at this point. And the prosecution system is extremely behind,” said Dana Ralph, mayor of Kent.

Ralph said it needs to be a collaborated effort between the City, police department, detention centers, the County prosecutor’s office, and the courts to properly address the surge in gun violence.

According to the King County Prosecutor’s Office, shots fired incidences were up 25% in the first quarter of 2021, compared to the average from 2016-2020.

The number of victims in those incidences is also up 27% in the same time period, according to the County.

“We see what we have now which is this revolving door of criminal activity and honestly bad guys being more brazen because the accountability pieces are not there,” said Ralph.

Kent saw three shootings in four days at the corner of Pacific Highway South & South Kent Des Moines Road.

“For the past year, there’s so many shootings,” said Yuri, an owner of a nail salon nearby.

Yuri was in her salon when she heard gunshots on Wednesday, the first of three shootings - officials now believe are connected to drugs and gang violence.

“My customers are worried. They just texted me these past days, [saying] we’re really worried about the area, I just want to cancel my appointment and wait until the stuff gets better and I’ll start coming back,” Yuri said.

She added that she now has pepper spray and locks the door during appointments.

According to law enforcement, there have been at least seven shootings in Federal Way, Tacoma, Tukwila and Kent in the last week.

Federal Way Mayor Jim Ferrell is trying to build a coalition of South King County Cities to speak as unified voice to combat the recent string of violence.

Ralph said she has reached out to King County Executive and the County Prosecutor to meet and address issues in the system after an arrest.

As of Tuesday, there have been no arrests to the three shootings in Kent. Though Ralph told KIRO7, the city believes they’re all connected and drug or gang-related.