Kent Police Chief Rafael Padilla delivers an update on the investigation and death of officer Diego Moreno, shown left on a poster, at a press conference Monday afternoon outside police headquarters. MARK KLAAS, Kent Reporter

Kent Police Chief Rafael Padilla delivers an update on the investigation and death of officer Diego Moreno, shown left on a poster, at a press conference Monday afternoon outside police headquarters. MARK KLAAS, Kent Reporter

Teen driver is under investigation for murder in the death of Diego Moreno.

Kent Police, community mourn loss of decorated officer

A 16-year-old Kent boy remains in custody for investigation of second-degree murder after he reportedly fled police in a pickup that resulted in the death of a Kent officer.

Renton Police arrested the boy at his father’s home in Kent on Sunday afternoon about 12 hours after the pursuit, according to court documents. A 17-year-old passenger in the 2003 red Dodge Ram pickup who was taken into custody shortly after the vehicle crashed at about 2 a.m. Sunday, told police the name of the driver and the other passenger.

The passenger told police that the Kent boy was “driving crazy.”

An officer pursuing the truck estimated the driver hit speeds of 75 to 95 mph while speeding in a 50 mph zone along Kent Des Moines Road. The pickup drove with its headlights off.

Officer Diego Moreno, 35, died at the scene from his injuries after he was hit by a police vehicle in pursuit of the pickup near the intersection of West Meeker Street and Kent Des Moines Road. Moreno had utilized spike strips that helped cause the pickup to crash a short distance down Kent Des Moines Road. Kent Police were chasing the truck after multiple shots were fired at about 1:50 a.m. near the El Habanero restaurant, 1819 W. Meeker St. Initial police reports listed the gunfire as near Shari’s restaurant, which is just south of El Habanero.

The teen driver, listed in court documents as a junior at Kentwood High School in Covington, admitted to police that he was driving the pickup. He and another 17-year-old passenger fled the crash scene on foot. He said he knew officers were attempting to pull him over but he failed to do so. He also said he saw an officer laying out spike strips and knew what they were as he had seen them on television.

The boy’s father is listed as the owner of the pickup, according to court documents. The boy told investigators once he got home he told his father he had been in an accident. At about 3:14 a.m. Sunday, the boy’s father called 911 to report his red truck had been stolen from the El Habanero parking lot about 90 minutes earlier.

Passengers arrested

Police also arrested the second passenger in the pickup, another 17-year-old boy. Initial police reports incorrectly listed the boy’s age as 15. One of the passengers, of Kent, is being held for investigation of unlawful discharge of a firearm. The second passenger, of Tukwila, is being held for investigation of unlawful discharge of a firearm and a felony drug charge. Schools or places of employment were not listed in court documents for either boy.

The Tukwila boy was taken into custody shortly after the pickup crashed. Police found an unfired .45 round on the ground outside the truck, according to court documents. When an officer frisked the boy for weapons, additional .45 rounds were found in his back pocket. Police did not find a gun on the boy. The boy also reportedly had a white powdery substance in his front pants pocket.

The boy told detectives he had fired several shots into the air with a .45-caliber gun in the parking lot near the El Habanero restaurant. He also said he had about 2 to 3 grams of cocaine for personal use.

Officers recovered 36 fired cartridge cases from three different caliber guns at the shooting scene, including a 9mm, .40 caliber and .45 caliber.

Police arrested the second passenger, a Kent boy, late Sunday afternoon at his Kent home. He told detectives he used a Glock 22, .40-caliber type pistol to fire several rounds in the air near the restaurant parking lot. Police searched the pickup and found a Glock 22 pistol, according to court documents.

Police have not released any information about why the boys in the truck were firing shots.

All three boys were scheduled for a second court appearance Thursday, after the Kent Reporter press deadline. The Kent Reporter is not releasing the names of the boys at this time because they have not been formally charged. Prosecutors also have yet to determine if the boys will be charged as adults. Charges were expected to be filed by Thursday.

The Valley Investigative Team, composed of detectives from multiple neighboring agencies, is overseeing the investigation led by the Renton Police. Kent Police spokesman Jarod Kasner said detectives are working to see who else may have been involved in the shooting near West Meeker Street and Russell Road South.

“It is believed there were multiple shooters in that initial incident,” Kasner said in an email.

The police pursuit started near West Meeker Street and Russell Road South after reports of gunfire. Witnesses reported a red pickup fleeing the scene. Police chased that vehicle south on Meeker Street and then west on Kent Des Moines Road, aka State Route 516. The pickup reportedly turned around on SR 516 near Military Road South and headed eastbound, where it went through the spike strip at the West Meeker intersection.

‘One of our finest’

Kent Police Chief Rafael Padilla said at a press conference on Monday that the name of the officer driving the vehicle that struck Moreno during pursuit of the pickup will not be released at this time. The officer remained Monday in satisfactory condition with severe leg injuries at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. He is an 18-year veteran of the force.

“He is absolutely one of our finest,” Padilla said about the 18-year veteran who chased the suspects. “He has served this community beautifully. He has been in many life-and-death encounters on your behalf. He is an expert in multiple facets of this career. He is a hero. He needs our support and we need to support him.

“What people need to know is that law enforcement isn’t cut and dry. Good people doing their absolute best to serve your community sometimes fall upon tragedy,” Padilla said. “Split-second decisions are made, life and death are in the balance and we can’t always get it the way we want it to be. But I can assure you, the pursuing officer in this case is one of the best, and we love him.”

Mayor Dana Ralph said at the press conference she will help make sure the fleeing suspects face severe charges.

“I want to make this extremely clear – as the mayor the buck stops with me,” Ralph said. “There is no place in Kent for crime or violence against any of our residents or our police officers. I will do everything in my power to ensure the individuals responsible for this are prosecuted to the fullest extent. That is my promise to you.”


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@rentonreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.rentonreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in News

A train route that would shuttle people between Eastern and Western Washington could tie in with the proposed ultra-high-speed rail between B.C. and Portland. Photo courtesy RobertStafford/Pixabay.com
State receives King County to Spokane rail study

It would take about eight and a half hours to reach the Inland Empire from Puget Sound.

Down the block at Williams Avenue South, trees were also removed, Monday, June 15. Photo by Haley Ausbun.
Tree in front of Common Ground Cupcakes removed

The city was not able to preserve the 48-year-old tree during utility upgrades. Staff also say the tree was nearing the end of its healthy lifespan.

The Red Lion Inn at 1 South Grady Way in Renton is being used as temporary site to relocate individuals experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic. Olivia Sullivan/staff photo
Renton finds code violation, issues Aug. 9 removal of Red Lion Hotel temporary shelter

County officials believe emergency health order will supersede city’s move.

Bret Chiafalo. File photo
Supreme Court says state can punish WA faithless electors

Justices: Presidential electors, including Everett man, must keep pledge to back popular vote winner

Gov. Jay Inslee issued new guidance allowing the resumption of self-service buffets, salad bars, salsa bars, drink stations and other types of communal food sources in Phase 2. File photo
Buffets and salad bars back on the menu in King County

Gov. Jay Inslee has revised rules to allow self-serve food areas in Phase 2 of the state’s reopening.

Brian Tilley (left) and Katie Dearman work the wash station Friday at Kate’s Greek American Deli in Everett. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Governor’s no-mask, no-service order begins across Washington

“Just do not ring up the sale,” Gov. Jay Inslee said about customers who do not don the proper masks.

King County homeless count: 11,751 people, up 5 percent from 2019

One night a year, volunteers spread out across Seattle and King County… Continue reading

Nurse Sylvia Keller, pictured with Gov. Jay Inslee, is on the front lines of the COVID-19 battle in Yakima County. Courtesy photo
Governor doubles down on mask rules

Inslee: Starting July 7, businesses do not serve those who do not wear a mask

State Capitol Building in Olympia. File photo
Politicians get pay raises, state workers get furloughs

A citizens panel approved the hikes in 2019. Unable to rescind them, lawmakers look to donate their extra earnings.

Most Read