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Monday, October 2, 2023
Oct. 2, 2023

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Bystander killed in revenge shooting at White Center casino, prosecutors say


SEATTLE —A shooting inside a crowded White Center casino that killed one patron and injured two employees late last month was part of an apparent revenge plot targeting a security guard, according to King County prosecutors.

Omar Upham Jr., 21, was charged Monday with first-degree murder and two counts of attempted first-degree murder for the May 27 shooting inside Roxbury Lanes, a restaurant, casino and bowling alley in the 2800 block of Southwest Roxbury Street.

Upham, who was arrested Thursday while leaving his South Seattle workplace, is being held without bail because he faces a potential life sentence and has demonstrated a propensity for violence, charging papers say. In addition to murder and attempted murder, he faces two counts of first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm for the two handguns — including the weapon used in the shooting — later found in the trunk of his car, the charges say.

Upham is accused of killing Hung Quoc Nguyen, who was seated at a card table when he was shot in the back of the head, say the charges, which don’t include Nguyen’s age or the ages of the other victims: a male security guard shot twice in the back and a female employee shot in the abdomen. All three were taken to Harborview Medical Center, where Nguyen died from his injuries May 31.

The security guard has since been discharged from the hospital, while the female employee was in satisfactory condition as of Monday, said Harborview spokesperson Susan Gregg.

Upham was released from prison in October after serving time for a 2019 armed robbery at a West Seattle gas station, court records show. Upham, who was 18 at the time, was accused of committing a string of armed robberies with a group of youths — and in return for his guilty plea, the state agreed not to file additional charges against him, in part due to his age.

The security guard shot at Roxbury Lanes was one of the youths previously arrested with Upham, the charges say, and prosecutors believe the shooting may be the third attempt on his life since Upham got out of prison.

Video footage viewed by King County sheriff’s detectives showed a man enter Roxbury Lanes just before 11 p.m. on May 27 wearing a face mask and a sweatshirt with the hood pulled over his head, according to charging papers. The man walked by a security guard posted at the entrance and walked to a podium between the front doors and the casino room, where a second security guard was seated, the charges say.

The man pulled a gun, and the second security guard ran into the casino toward a back door, passing Nguyen at a card table and pushing by a co-worker, according to charging papers. The bystanders were struck by bullets as the gunman gave chase and opened fire, say the charges.

After the security guard collapsed to the floor, the gunman turned and fled out the front door. Four .40 caliber casings and two bullets were found at the scene.

A manager told detectives the security guard, who had been hired a month earlier, told him he’d recently been released from prison and there were rumors people were after him for being “a snitch,” the charges say.

At Harborview, detectives learned of two earlier shootings that were corroborated by Seattle police: The security guard’s car was shot up in November, and his mother’s house was shot up in March, say the charges. The security guard — who told detectives he and Upham had known each other a long time and were previously “locked up together” — recognized Upham as soon as he walked into Roxbury Lanes and identified him as the person who shot him, according to the charges.

Upham’s cellphone records showed he had been near the security guard’s mother’s former house before the Roxbury Lanes shooting, charging papers say. A woman who lives nearby remembered seeing a blue Saturn driving around the neighborhood, according to the charges.

Upham was driving a blue Saturn when he was arrested, and two handguns were found in the trunk, including a .40 caliber handgun that was matched to casings from the shooting scene, the charges say. Detectives also found clothing that appeared to be worn by the gunman in the Roxbury Lanes video footage, according to the charges.

Upham is scheduled to be arraigned June 15.