Burien residents question their safety after 2 teen girls gunned down

BURIEN, Wash. – A community is demanding answers after the murder of two teenage girls in Burien.

The King County Sheriff’s Office says the killings have been linked to gang violence, but the suspects are still on the loose.

As the memorial grows for 19-year-old Eveona Cortez and 13-year-old Elizabeth Juarez, the concerns now are about retaliation and what happens in the summer months when crime tends to spike.

“I’m actually praying it doesn’t…. we don’t need that.  All the shootings happening, it’s just too much,” said Burien resident Julie Hatcher.

It fueled dozens of people to read impassioned statements at the Burien City Council meeting Monday night.

“As a community, we all have a stake in making our schools and communities safe,” said one resident.

“I almost lost my own family member to gang violence, to gun violence,” said another.

“I don’t want to go to a point where I’m going to have to prioritize how to how to dodge a bullet instead of prioritizing my reading, writing, and math skills,” said one teenage Burien resident.

A lot of people took aim at law enforcement.

So Q13 News asked the King County Sheriff’s Office what it’s doing about safety concerns.

“We don’t want people to fear where they live. We want people to be able to go out and enjoy their lives.  We’ve got summer coming up,” said sheriff’s Sgt. Ryan Abbott.

But Alturas resident Julie Hatcher says she does live in fear.

“I remember being able to walk down the street, down to the grocery store to what used to be an Albertsons down on Ambaum, but now you don’t see a lot of kids doing that anymore,” said Hatcher.

Many at the City Council meeting expressed frustration at a lack of funding, which led to the sheriff's gang unit being disbanded.

"Just because we don’t have a 'gang unit' doesn’t mean we’re not focusing on gang problems. All of our deputies are trained, and we have an intel unit that knows the most about gangs,” said Abbott.

Abbott added that the sheriff's office is considering asking for funding in a new budget for a gang unit.  In the meantime, he says they’re doing emphasis patrols around the crime scene and the troubled apartment complex.

But Hatcher says she’d like to see fewer officers and community programs.

“We used to have a community-involved group that was on the property and they moved out. We had a garden and everything. Things seemed to get better when that was around,” said Hatcher.

The sheriff’s office says it wants people to call them whenever there’s a problem and give as much information as possible.

Abbott insists the deputies aren’t worried about anyone's immigration status.  He says they just want to solve crimes.  He says fear of deportation or an overall distrust of police may be hindering some of their crime-fighting efforts.