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News / Northwest

Soldier accused of killings at Gorge campground was high on mushrooms, police say

By Cameron Probert, Tri-City Herald
Published: June 22, 2023, 7:28am

KENNEWICK — A U.S. Army specialist believed the world was ending when he began shooting people in the Gorge Amphitheatre campground.

James M. Kelly’s bad trip while on psilocybin mushrooms at the Beyond Wonderland electronic dance music festival on Saturday ended with him killing a Seattle couple and injuring three other people, including his girlfriend, according to a Washington State Patrol report.

His rampage ended in a farm field near the campgrounds when a veteran Moses Lake police detective shot him once.

He is now in the Grant County jail facing two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of first-degree assault and one count of first-degree assault with a domestic violence aggravating circumstance.

The trip to the music festival began peacefully, Kelly and his girlfriend Lily M. Luksich, 20, told investigators. They went to the Gorge Amphitheatre outside of George, Wash., in his 2012 Dodge Ram pickup and set up in the campgrounds.

While they were at the concert, Kelly took a dose of mushrooms. He told detectives that he previously had a bad trip while taking mushrooms from this source.

“As Kelly’s hallucination ‘trip’ got going, he began to believe that the world was ending and that he needed to return to his camp immediately with Luksich,” Sgt. David Kiehl wrote. “Kelly and Luksich hurried back to their campsite. During that time, Luksich said Kelly made multiple statements to the effect of ‘this is the end.’”

Kelly got into his truck and grabbed a handgun from a locked box in the center console. He loaded a magazine and stepped out from behind the driver’s door.

Shooting

Kelly first came across Josilyn Ruiz, 26, and fiance Brandy P. Escamilla, 29, shortly after 8:20 p.m. as they were walking through the campground together, according to court documents.

When their paths crossed, he allegedly fired several shots, hitting and killing the couple.

Andrew J. Cuadra, 31, heard the shots and started moving toward them. As he neared Kelly, the soldier allegedly fired at least one shot, hitting the man in the shoulder, according to court documents.

Kelly left the area around his pickup and started moving through the campground. Luksich followed him, and tried to call 911. She was able to tell dispatchers that “her man had a gun,” but then Kelly grabbed the cellphone and threw it away.

They moved northeast toward the outer fence line of the campground.

A Polaris Ranger utility vehicle with multiple Crowd Management Services employees on it was responding to the shots being fired when they crossed paths with Kelly. Employee Lori L. Williams was driving along the fence line when Kelly allegedly fired several shots, according to the court documents.

One of those punched through the windshield, and hit her glasses. Her glasses shattered, and she was cut and bruised. A second bullet hit the front bumper of the Polaris.

Kelly and Luksich moved into the farm field next to the campground where Grant County sheriff’s deputies found them. The deputies flew a drone over them and Kelly fired several times at it.

At multiple points while they were at the fence line, Luksich lay down on the ground. Kelly either sat on her, or sat next to her and leaned over.

“At one point, Luksich began to walk north, away from Kelly, turned around with her hands raised in the air and walked back to Kelly,” Kiehl wrote.

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He then shot her once in the foot, and then a second time in the upper leg. The second shot caused life-threatening injuries that resulted in what investigators say will be permanent injuries.

Police then closed in on the couple and Moses Lake police Detective Edgar Salazar shot him once. He was treated at Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane.

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