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The Times' criminal justice team looks behind the scenes and behind the headlines.

December 14, 2010 at 12:04 PM

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UPDATE: Guilty plea in fatal shooting at Southcenter mall

Posted by John de Leon

Barry Lee Saunders Jr. pleaded guilty Monday to second-degree murder and second-degree assault in connection with the fatal shooting at Westfield Southcenter mall on Nov. 22, 2008. Killed was 16-year-old Diaquan Jones. Jermaine McGowen, then 15, was wounded.

According to charging documents, Saunders, his girlfriend, his brother and a friend of his brother's went to the mall to shop on Nov. 22. Saunders and his girlfriend went one way, and the brother and friend went another.

The brother and friend soon crossed paths with Jones, McGowan and two of their friends, charging papers say. Jones' group flashed gang signs at the two other boys and a fistfight broke out, according to charging papers.

Saunders' brother saw him down the hall and called for him. The brother was fighting another boy on the ground when he heard two shots and, at first, thought his own friend had been shot, the charging papers say.

Saunders had a few minor run-ins with the law as a juvenile, according to court records. Most seriously, he was charged in 2002 with taking a motor vehicle without permission, but he completed a deferred prosecution and the charge was dismissed.

Saunders was arrested four days after the shooting in Portland. His attorney claimed at the time that he acted in self-defense when he opened fire at the mall.

Saunders faces a sentence range of between 204 to 304 months in prison when he is sentenced on Feb. 4.

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