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Sunday, March 3, 2024
March 3, 2024

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Teen charged in unprovoked shooting of sleeping stranger on Seattle bus


SEATTLE _ King County prosecutors have accused a Burien teen of committing a “senseless execution of a total stranger,” fatally shooting a man who was apparently asleep aboard a Metro bus early last month in an incident that underscores ongoing concerns about safety on public transit.

Onboard video footage shows Miguel Rivera Dominguez, 17, didn’t interact with Marcel Wagner, 21, as they sat for 12 minutes at opposite ends of a bench on an H Line bus making its way from Burien to White Center, say criminal charges filed last week.

Dominguez, who remains at large, was wearing a ski mask while on the bus and changed clothes before returning home. The teenager was charged as an adult with premeditated first-degree murder and unlawful possession of a firearm, court records show. The Seattle Times does not identify juvenile defendants unless they are charged as adults.

“The steps the defendant took to conceal his identity and his calculated actions on the bus underscore the planned and deliberate nature of this crime,” Deputy Prosecutor Lauren Burke wrote in charging papers, noting the Oct. 3 shooting was completely unprovoked.

An arrest warrant has been issued for Dominguez, who has no prior criminal convictions.

In the wake of Wagner’s shooting death, Metro officials immediately announced the agency would boost security on the H Line, which connects downtown Seattle to Burien, amid wider safety concerns stemming from a recent string of violent, seemingly random incidents on buses and at transit centers.

Prosecutors, for instance, have also charged Richard Gordon, 39, with felony assault in an unprovoked hammer attack that left two people injured Sept. 28 at the Beacon Hill Light Rail Station, according to court records. He remains jailed in lieu of $1.2 million bail.

At least four other violent incidents have happened along the light-rail 1 Line (Angle Lake to Northgate) since midyear: an unprovoked knife attack on a train near Othello Station where fellow passengers rescued the victim; a man struck in the head by a large rock at Sodo Station; a stabbing during a fight at Angle Lake Station; and a stabbing last week on the platform of the International District/Chinatown Station after a fight that began inside a train.

Wagner’s killing was the fourth shooting since 2019 inside a Metro bus or at a transit station, a Metro spokesperson said last month. Several other shootings, homicides and assaults have occurred at bus stops across the county, including the June killing of 17-year-old John Garcia at a bus stop outside Tukwila’s Foster High School.

While Sound Transit has nearly double its unarmed guard patrols and has reduced response times since March from 10 to five minutes, King County Sheriff’s deputies assigned to patrol Metro and Sound Transit remain far below budgeted levels, a gap officials say reflects a wider, regional police recruiting shortfall.

Sheriff’s detectives investigating Wagner’s fatal shooting learned he boarded the bus on Ambaum Boulevard Southwest near Southwest 148th Street in Burien at 4:50 p.m. on Oct. 3, say the murder charges against Dominguez. Four minutes later, two youths — one of them later identified as Dominguez — boarded the bus together at a stop just south of Southwest 142nd Street.

Wagner, who appeared to be sleeping, sat at one end of the front-facing bench at the rear of the bus while Dominguez sat at the other and appeared to be texting or looking at his phone for the duration of the ride, pausing only to look out the window, the charges say.

Dominguez eventually pulled the stop cord to be let off, and as the bus reached 15th Avenue Southwest and Southwest Roxbury Street in White Center, he pulled out a gun and began firing at Wagner “without uttering a single word,” a sheriff’s detective wrote in charging papers.

“The sudden and abrupt gunfire appears to take other passengers by surprise, including, it appears, Dominguez’s own acquaintance … who reacts with shock and covers his head as Dominguez continues to fire his gun repeatedly at Wagner from just a few feet away,” the detective wrote.

Dominguez and his 17-year-old companion then got out of their seats, with Dominguez yelling at the driver to open the rear door as a mortally wounded Wagner was seen slowly slumping down in his seat, say the charges. Dominguez fired two rounds into the rear door before the driver opened it, letting them off, according to the charges. Wagner died at the scene at 5:06 p.m.

Video footage from the Burien neighborhood where Dominguez boarded the bus helped detectives identify him as the shooter, the charges say. He was enrolled in a dropout reengagement program offered by the Highline School District at the time of the shooting.

Detectives also obtained video footage from the White Center Boys & Girls Club that showed Dominguez arrive with a 15-year-old boy minutes after he got off the bus, according to charging papers. The boys entered through a side door, bypassing security, and Dominguez removed his ski mask, went into a restroom and emerged wearing different clothing, the charges say.

A camera mounted outside the Burien house where Dominguez lived with his guardians also captured him leaving his residence in clothes that matched those worn by the bus shooter and later returning in the clothing he had changed into at the Boys & Girls Club, according to charging papers.

Under state law, 16- and 17-year-olds charged with certain violent crimes, including murder, can automatically be charged as adults in Superior Court, though, if convicted, trial judges have unfettered discretion in sentencing juvenile defendants and are not required to follow standard sentencing guidelines in place for adults.

Investigators ask anyone with information about Dominguez’s whereabouts to call 911. Tips can also be sent anonymously through Crime Stoppers of Puget Sound at 800-222-8477, online at P3Tips.com or via the P3Tips app.