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News / Northwest

Man accused in fatal Washington music festival shooting pleads not guilty

By Associated Press
Published: July 5, 2023, 2:53pm

SEATTLE — A 26-year-old member of the U.S. military accused of fatally shooting two women and wounding three other people at a music festival at Washington state’s Gorge Amphitheatre has entered not guilty pleas to multiple charges.

The Seattle Times reports James M. Kelly pleaded not guilty Wednesday to two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of first-degree assault and one count of first-degree domestic violence assault in the shooting at the Beyond Wonderland electronic dance music festival, according to Grant County Superior Court documents.

Seattle couple Brandy Escamilla and Josilyn Ruiz died in the June 17 shooting.

A public defender was assigned to Kelly, whose next court appearance is set for July 25. A trial was set for late August, and Kelly could face a sentence of up to life in prison, court documents said. He remains lodged in the county jail without bail.

Kelly told detectives he took psychedelic mushrooms June 17 that caused him to hallucinate. A woman he was dating who was also shot recalled him saying he thought the world was ending, according to probable cause documents. Kelly then went to his truck to get a gun and shot the two women, documents say. He also shot the woman he was dating, another person attending the festival and an employee, the documents allege.

Kelly, an active member of the U.S. Army at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in western Washington, alleges his hallucinations might have led to the shooting, according to court documents.

The Gorge bans weapons at its venue and campground. It’s unclear how that policy is enforced at the venue’s campgrounds, but police said they are investigating.

Shortly before 8:30 p.m., Kelly shot Escamilla and Ruiz, who were walking through the campground, according to court documents. He also shot a 31-year-old man from Eugene, Oregon, who headed toward the area when he heard the gunshots, documents allege.

The woman dating Kelly called 911 and told a dispatcher Kelly had a gun before he discarded her phone, court documents state. Kelly then shot an employee responding to gunshot reports, according to the documents, and made his way to a nearby field, where a Sheriff’s Office drone spotted him.

Kelly then shot his girlfriend twice and also fired at the drone, hitting it once, documents allege.