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

February 4, 2011 at 4:24 PM

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17-year sentence for fatal shooting at Southcenter mall

Posted by John de Leon

A 23-year-old Seattle man was sentenced Friday to 17 years in prison for shooting two men, and killing one, in November 2008 at the Westfield Southcenter mall.

Barry Lee Saunders Jr. pleaded guilty last month to second-degree murder and second-degree assault for fatally shooting 16-year-old Diaquan Jones and wounding Jermaine McGowan, then 15.

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, 2008. 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.

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