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Police: 3 teen suspects in Jungle killings were seeking $500 in drug money owed their mom

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SEATTLE – Court documents related to the suspects in last week’s fatal shootings at “The Jungle” homeless encampment show that police believe the three boys arrested were brothers who were avenging a drug debt owed to their mother.

Police arrested the three Monday night near Safeco Field. It was originally believed that one of three was a girl, but the three boys are 13, 16 and 17. Q13 News is not naming them at this time because they are all minors.

One of the boys told police that the shootings – two people were killed and three more were seriously injured - happened on their mother’s birthday. Police said he admitted he and his brothers were involved, but didn’t go into detail – though he did say his mother was angry when she found out.

The three boys, who are of Samoan descent, lived near Edgar Martinez Way and 4th Ave. S., police said, and were believed to be involved with several suspected robberies, shootings and a homicide that took place last October.

The King County Medical Examiner's Office identified the deceased as James Q Tran, 33, and Jeannine Zapata, 45.  The office said they both died of multiple gunshot wounds.

The charging documents allege that the boys wore leather coats and masks when they entered the camp, and that they told a witness they got away with $200 or $300 in cash and $100 in black tar heroin.

The documents show that another of the shooting victims, Phat T. Nguyen - aka Phats - appeared to be the intended target.

On Tuesday, a judge denied bail for the brothers until their next court appearance when their defense attorneys will be able to bring up the bail issue again.

They were also ordered not to have any contact with their mother since she could be called to testify in this case.

The King County Prosecutor's Office will have until Thursday to file charges. No word yet on whether they will prosecute the teens as adults.

Family members of Jeannine Zapata says they want the killers punished. Zapata is one of the two killed.

"I am hoping they will show some remorse and understand what they have done," Zapata's aunt Kimberly Sundstrom said.

Sundstrom says Zapata battled with crack addiction for more than a decade. Zapata, a mother of 6, lived in "The Jungle" but eventually got clean and moved out. Sundstrom says on the day of the shooting, Zapata went to visit her friends who were still there.

"In my heart I want to believe it wasn't to do drugs," Sundstrom said.

Sundstrom says she doesn't want the homeless uprooted from "The Jungle" but she wants the city to work on a long term solution calling the encampment a magnet for drug use.