Suspects in downtown Seattle shooting plead not guilty

SEATTLE -- William Ray Tolliver and Marquise Tolbert, two men accused in January's mass shooting in downtown Seattle, pleaded not guilty on Wednesday.

They are both charged with eight counts, including murder.

They are accused of killing a 50-year-old woman and injuring seven others, including a 9-year-old boy, during a shootout at Third Avenue and Pine Street.

The two are accused of getting into a gun battle with a rival gang member, Jamel Jackson.

Jackson was charged with unlawful possession of a firearm. Jackson was injured during the shooting. Both Tolliver and Tolbert went on the run for about a week until they were arrested in Las Vegas.

“When I saw it on the news I started praying whoever they are that they come forward that they can't get away with it,” Lizzie Coleman said.

That’s how Coleman says she felt when she heard about the shooting, not realizing at first that one of the suspects police were looking for was her grandson Tolliver.

“He just got caught up with the wrong person at the wrong time,” Coleman said.

The Third Avenue shooting immediately unleashed calls for solutions to revamp an area that's become synonymous with crime.

"It doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive to have a progressive city and safety, all we are asking for is the law to be enforced and people to be held accountable,” Sabrina Villanueva said.

But even before the deadly shootout, many have voiced tremendous concern over the years about the transformation of downtown Seattle.

“I am heartbroken by this kind of violence, we cannot have gathering places where people fear gunfire,” Mayor Jenny Durkan said.

During Durkan's State of the City address on Tuesday, she called for stricter gun laws and more resources for intervention with troubled youths.

She also called for a predictable and accountable criminal justice system.

“We also have to try new things,” Durkan said.

One of those new solutions is to relaunch a program that was cut due to budget constraints nearly 20 years ago.

Starting this spring, community service officers will help Seattle Police Officers as ambassadors in the community. The idea is to have a presence and fill in the gaps when needed.

There are 18 CSO’s budgeted for 2020. They will walk neighborhoods and help link social services and outreach.

But the program is one small solution to a complicated issue. The program is also not enough to address the city’s epidemic of repeat offenders.

Last year Durkan announced several pilot programs she hoped to push through.

They include an enhanced shelter with 60 beds with around the clock behavioral health services.

On Wednesday a spokesperson for the Mayor says the second phase of the West wing is in development with a projected opening this Fall.

There is also the pilot called Rapid Re-Entry Connector, which involves the King County Jail.

The idea is to triage individuals before they are released from jail so they have the services and support needed to remain out in society. The budget is still being worked out on that proposal.

As for other new efforts underway, a spokesperson for the mayor says the mobile precinct stationed after the shooting will remain at Third and Pine.

They are also creating a response program to dispatch trained community members who previously had gang affiliation. These individuals would be dispatched immediately after a shooting both to hospitals and hot spots.

The Mayor’s office says they are also exploring changes to streetscape and park activation and expanding outreach to those living on the streets who are dealing with substance abuse and mental illness.