Burien tragedy: ‘I saw a man leaning outside the passenger side of the car and firing’

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BURIEN, Wash. -- A 51-year-old woman working at a chiropractor clinic lost her life when a stray bullet came through the window of her office, killing her.

Friends say the victim was a mother, grandmother and was dedicated to helping the Spanish-speaking community thrive in Burien, often translating for customers.

“It’s so hard,” said Claudia Mendoza, a friend of the victim for 14 years.

Disbelief is the feeling among family and friends of the woman who was killed, just doing her job.

“Completely unrelated and completely innocent,” said King County Sheriff's Sgt. Ryan Abbott.

Sheriff’s detectives say around 2:45 p.m. Wednesday, occupants of a SUV driving along 152nd and 1st Avenue South in Burien fired multiple rounds out the window.

“The vehicle was firing at a person who was walking on the sidewalk,” said Abbott.

He added that person, a 39-year-old man, had just picked up his 15-year-old son from school and they were walking home. That man and his child were not hit.

“I saw a man leaning outside the passenger side of the car and firing at the person running across the street,” said Nik Paulson, who had just pulled into the parking lot next to the chiropractor’s office with his friend to grab food.

“It was probably like seven shots at least,” said David Wilson, a witness.

“We got down, we heard a couple more shots, we heard one graze by us, the ricochet and David got us out of there,” said Paulson.

One bullet crashed through the front window of the chiropractic clinic, killing the woman working inside.

Investigators believe four men were in the SUV and are working to determine whether this shooting was gang-related.

“This is the first time I’m kind of worried to be outside,” said Paulson.

A shooting in broad daylight raised fear in a community tired of escalating violence in Burien and took the life of an innocent woman who friends say was all about her family, her work and making Burien a better community.

“We need some help around here,” said Wilson.

“Very nice, very sweet,” Mendoza said of her friend who was killed.

Burien Mayor Jimmy Matta says he has known the victim and her family for 20 years. He says she was a force in the community, a leader dedicated to helping the Hispanic population thrive.

Police are still searching for the four suspects in the SUV involved in the shooting.

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