SEATTLE - Friday was a very emotional day inside a King County Superior Courtroom as witnesses relived terrifying moments from the January 2020 deadly shooting in downtown Seattle. The father of the youngest victim, who was hit by a bullet and hospitalized, gave testimony.
The trial began on Thursday for Marquise Tolbert, one of three suspected shooters. Prosecutors said the deadly shooting near the intersection of 3rd Ave. and Pine St. was caused by gang rivalry. His defense attorneys said he was not the first or second person to shoot, and claimed he fired his gun in self-defense. Tolbert is charged with first-degree murder and six counts of assault.
Colby Clifton said January 23, 2020 was the first time his family took a trip together to Seattle, visiting from Port Orchard. They were walking near 3rd and Pine on their way to catch a ferry down the street to go home. Clifton said he was only a few feet away from the suspect who fired the first shot.
"I saw a gun, and I saw flashes and I heard pops," said Clifton.
The father said he was holding one of his daughters in his arms, and his son, Judah, was steps behind him. Clifton’s wife and other daughter were also behind him. When the shots rang out, Clifton said he clung to his daughter in his arms as he ran behind a bus to dodge the bullets.
"I had to protect my daughter, Opal. She was the one that I had. And I had to leave my family so I could protect my one child that I had," wept Clifton.
After nearly 24 rounds of gunfire, Clifton said he ran to his son Judah who was shot in the leg. His wife was by his side as the parents and strangers cared for Judah until first responders arrived.
"He was unusually collected and calm. Very proud of him," wept Clifton.
The then 9-year-old was hospitalized for two days. He was dispatched from surgery in a wheelchair from his wounds.
"His femur was just shattered and completely apart. I thought after seeing the X-ray, maybe he would never walk again," said Clifton.
Clifton said it was only eight weeks ago when doctors removed a metal plate and screws from his son’s leg. He explained Judah has been doing physical therapy ever since that shooting, and that his son is doing "amazing," is an "active" child and continues "thriving" in his recovery.
The court also heard testimony from a Seattle Police officer as prosecutors and defense played video recorded from his body camera. It provided a closer look at what happened when the officer arrived on scene moments after the shots were fired. It also included images of some of the victims hit by bullets.
Mark R., a transit driver with King County Metro also took the witness stand. Prosecutors and defense played video recorded from his bus, capturing two of the shooting suspects running away from the intersection of 3rd and Pine and shooting their guns.
"Both of them had guns in their right hand. Both of them were shooting blindly like this, like they were expecting something or something coming that way," said Mark.
Testimony will continue with other victims of the shooting and first responders at King County Superior Court.