Suspect in I-5 freeway shootings arrested in Auburn

Of the five shooting incidents, one resulted in injury, with the shooter striking the driver of a vehicle on southbound Interstate 5 north of South 320th Street in the neck.

The King County Superior Court found probable cause for charges against an individual suspected of involvement in a series of five freeway shootings on Dec. 6 on Interstate 5.

The court found probable cause at 28-year-old Marco Antonio Ramos-Valdez’s first appearance hearing on Saturday, Dec. 9 for charges including two counts of drive-by shooting and two counts of first-degree assault.

The Washington State Patrol announced the arrest of an individual suspected of involvement in a series of five freeway shootings on Dec. 6 on Interstate 5.

Captain Ron Mead of the Washington State Patrol stated Ramos-Valdez served as an active shooter at a press conference on Dec. 8.

“The suspect’s actions, the night of Dec. 6, met the very definition of an active shooter — other than rather than shooting in a confined space that we’re accustomed to, used our freeway systems, to commit carnage, cause injury, and create fear among the people using our transportation system,” Mead said.

Of the five shooting incidents, one resulted in injury, with the shooter striking the driver of a vehicle on southbound Interstate 5 north of South 320th in the neck.

First responders transported the driver to Harborview Medical Center. The injuries served as non-life threatening, with the victim in stable condition and expected to make a recovery, Mead said.

The passenger of the vehicle in the incident sustained no injuries.

All vehicles shot at sustained bullet damage, Mead said.

Mead stated a sixth freeway shooting on Dec. 6 — an incident on Southbound Interstate 5 near South 320 involving the driver of a gray mid-2000s pickup truck firing at the victim — appears to be unrelated.

“The timing is poor, but the suspect vehicle differs significantly from the other two [incidents] where we had a solid description,” Mead said. “There are … three [incidents where] nobody has a description of the vehicle format.”

Troopers arrested Ramos-Valdez on Dec. 7 at approximately 10:40 p.m. in Auburn after license plate recognition software alerted law enforcement of a vehicle of interest in the city.

Law enforcement saturated the area and actively searched for the vehicle, locating the vehicle, a light blue Nissan, parked at an address in Auburn.

After observing the vehicle leaving the residence and confirming the driver to match the description of the suspect, law enforcement conducted a traffic stop and arrested the driver, according to a news release from the agency.

Troopers observed a semi-automatic handgun, loose ammunition, and a shell casing in the back of the vehicle.

The Washington State Patrol impounded the suspect vehicle as evidence, awaiting execution of a search warrant on the vehicle and ballistics testing on the shell casing, Mead said.

Law enforcement interviewed Ramos-Valdez and booked him into the King County Jail for investigation of drive-by shooting and assault in the first degree, according to the news release.

The Washington State Patrol has tied Ramos-Valdez to two freeway shooting incidents, as of Dec. 8, said Mead.

“While we’re confident that we’ll tie him to additional shootings, we’ve not yet got anything with the others — just the first two,” Mead said.

The Washington State Patrol has no indication that anyone nor any individual served as a target to the shooter.

“When we have shootings … on our freeway system … they’re usually triggered by some interaction or trouble on the freeway,” Mead said. “The notion that we [had] somebody just randomly shooting at random people is just not something we experience.”

As of Dec. 8, the agency believes the shootings served as a series of random events.

“The best information we have is that these were completely random events — that nothing precipitated these events,” Mead said. “… There’s no information that any of these people were targeted. … Somebody chose to use our freeway system, to create carnage and to create mayhem.”

According to first appearance documents, Bellevue police interviewed Ramos-Valdez after his arrest. Ramos-Valdez indicated to police that about nine months ago he started to hear voices threatening to kill him. He said to police he armed himself with a gun from his brother’s room less than a week prior to the freeway shootings.

Ramos-Valdez indicated the voices identified specific vehicles that served as a danger to him on Dec. 6, according to documents.

Ramos-Valdez’s sister confirmed that he expressed hearing voices, estimating the voices started five months ago.

Ramos-Valdez did not appear in court at his first appearance hearing, so bail arguments were not addressed, according to an email from Casey McNerthney, director of communications for the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. Ramos-Valdez remains in jail.

The court scheduled Ramos-Valdez’s next appearance for Dec. 11 where the court will address the question of bail amount, according to McNerthney’s email.

King County prosecutors anticipate receiving case referral documents from law enforcement within the week for a rush-file charging decision.