Vancouver Safeway shooting likely gang related, police claim in court documents

Published: Mar. 15, 2023 at 9:00 AM PDT|Updated: Mar. 16, 2023 at 3:00 PM PDT
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VANCOUVER, Wash. (KPTV) - A 28-year-old man was arrested Tuesday in connection with a deadly shooting that happened in a Vancouver, Wash. grocery store parking lot over the weekend, according to police.

In court documents released Thursday, police claim that the Saturday shooting at the 6701 East Mill Plain Boulevard Safeway was gang related.

On Tuesday, Nicholas Martinell-Sterling was arrested at home in the 7900 block of Northeast Burton Road around 3:30 a.m. Police said he was booked into the Clark County Jail for first-degree murder, first-degree assault and drive-by shooting.

On Wednesday, police said the victim was 28-year-old Henry Gonzalez Carmona of Vancouver, Wash.

RELATED: 1 dead, 3 injured after shooting at Vancouver Safeway parking lot, car chase

According to court documents, on Saturday at around 10:30 p.m., a 911 caller reported that shots had been fired in the parking lot of a Safeway at 6701 East Mill Plain Boulevard.

Then, about 10 minutes later, another caller reported gunshots near the PeaceHealth Medical Center, and a person suffering from gunshot wounds had been dropped off at the hospital emergency center.

Following an initial investigation, police said in court documents that the incident had started Saturday night when Gonzalez Carmona entered the Safeway with his girlfriend. Two of their friends stayed in a car outside, waiting for them.

Police say the suspect, Martinell-Sterling, was already inside the Safeway, where he purchased alcohol, requiring him to present a photo ID.

Police say Gonzalez Carmona and his girlfriend walked past Martinell-Sterling and an unidentified white man with him inside the store. Gonzalez Carmona’s girlfriend told investigators that Martinell-Sterling and the other man asked them where they were from.

Surveillance footage shows Gonzalez Carmona then making a call on his cell phone.

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In court documents, police claim that this interaction is evidence of gang affiliation.

“I know based on my experience that individuals involved in gangs often ask others where they are from, when referring to asking what gang they belong to,” the police officer states in their declaration of probable cause.

Then, according to court documents, Martinell-Sterling and and his companion left the store, but surveillance footage doesn’t show what vehicle they get into.

About two minutes later, Gonzalez Carmona and his girlfriend leave the store, and shots are fired, but the shooting was not captured by surveillance, police say.

Then, the suspect vehicle is caught on surveillance fleeing the scene, with Martinell-Sterling allegedly in the passenger seat. The vehicle was last seen driving east on Mill Plain Boulevard.

Gonzalez Carmona suffered at least one gunshot wound and his friends loaded him into the car, driving for the hospital.

Shortly before the victims’ car reached the hospital, more shots were fired at it, “presumably from the same suspects,” court documents say.

The victim car driver, one of Gonzalez Carmona’s friends, was shot and seriously injured.

Gonzalez Carmona and the driver were admitted into the hospital. The other two passengers also suffered injuries court documents describe as “possible gunshots grazing wounds.”

Gonzalez Carmona was declared dead at the hospital and an autopsy determined he died from a gunshot wound to his torso. His death was ruled a homicide.

The three other victims were a 42-year-old man, a 35-year-old man and a 36-year-old woman.

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Investigators said they found 12 spent casings at the Safeway parking lot.

At the corner of Northeast 87th Avenue and Northeast Fifth Street, the scene of the second alleged shooting, police said they found four more spent casings.

No other arrests have been made in the shooting. Martinell-Sterling’s companion is described as a white man who was dressed in “all red.”

Martinell-Sterling made his first court appearance Thursday. He will be formerly arraigned on March 30 and is being held without bail.