On August 1, three days after a shooting shocked the small Washington town of Mukilteo, the public got its first glimpse into the moments before the shooter killed his victims.
According to a probable cause document released that day by the Snohomish County Prosecutor's Office, Allen Christopher Ivanov told police he showed up at a house party in Mukilteo around 10 p.m. on July 29. Once there, he "creeped up toward the house and saw [his ex-girlfriend, 19-year-old Anna Bui] with another male and got angry," according to the document. Police say Ivanov then returned to his car, read the instruction manual for the AR-15 he'd bought a week prior, loaded the gun's magazine, placed the magazine in the rifle, and returned to the house. He crept around to the back of the house, where a "male partygoer" discovered him. Ivanov told police he was "scared" and shot the person. "He stated that at that point it was too late to turn back," the document reads, "and once he had pulled the trigger his adrenaline kicked in."
Police have not yet said where Ivanov purchased the AR-15, but they believe he bought a second magazine for the gun at Cabela's in Marysville. The result of his alleged actions: Three people—Anna Bui, Jordan Ebner and Jake Long, all 19—are dead. Will Kramer, 18, is seriously injured. According to court documents, Ivanov told police he had recently broken up with Bui, his "dream girl," and resented the fact that she was now Snapchatting photos of herself drinking with other men. "It showed that she was getting on with her life without him," the court documents read, "which made him jealous."
According to the CDC, one in three women have been victims of some form of physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime. Of the women murdered with guns in the United States in 2011, 53 percent of them were killed by intimate partners or family members, according to the advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety. In Western Washington, Bui's death is only the latest headline about a woman's death at the hands of a boyfriend or ex. In February, to take one example, a man allegedly shot and killed his estranged girlfriend at her workplace in University Place after she filed for a restraining order against him.
"Passivity in the face of gun violence is unacceptable," Governor Jay Inslee told mourners during a vigil in Mukilteo on July 31. "Inaction is unacceptable." Speaking to reporters afterward, Inslee went one step further, saying the rifle used in the shooting carried 30 rounds. "Our state needs to think about whether that makes sense," Inslee said.
In an interview with The Stranger the day after the vigil, Inslee stopped short of calling for magazine limits or a ban on AR-15s in Washington State (state lawmakers representing Seattle tried in 2013 to ban assault weapons and gained no traction in Olympia). But Inslee did praise another gun law up for consideration this year. In November, Washington voters will consider Initiative 1491, which would establish extreme risk protection orders for gun violence. These orders would allow family members and law enforcement officers to request that a judge temporarily ban a person from possessing guns if that person is a threat to themselves or others.
If I-1491 passes, a judge would have 14 days to hold the hearing requested by concerned family members, consider evidence presented by the family or police, and decide whether to impose an extreme risk protection order. In emergencies, a judge could impose a temporary protection order until a hearing could be held.
"This measure is not the only thing; it's not a panacea," Inslee said. "It can't solve all the problems, but it is one common-sense thing we can do."
Police have not yet said whether Ivanov's family feared he might become violent, but, according to court documents, a "witness from Kentucky" showed a detective text messages from Ivanov sent several days before the shooting "regarding committing a mass shooting."
For many reasons, there is no guarantee that an extreme risk protection order could have prevented this shooting. But the proposal is designed to offer a path for families who fear a loved one may be headed toward such violence.
"This isn't a simple problem with one kind of cure-all remedy," said Joanna Paul, a spokesperson for the Alliance for Gun Responsibility, the group that successfully expanded background checks in Washington in 2014 and is campaigning for I-1491. "So it might not have stopped this shooting, but I am confident extreme risk protection orders and Initiative 1491 will prevent future tragedies—because in a lot of cases, there are warning signs."
While gun safety advocates campaign for I-1491, families in Mukilteo are looking for a path forward.
"We never thought something like this could happen," said Ashley Young, a 19-year-old who knew Bui since childhood and described her as a cheerful, talented singer. "I want [people] to remember her laugh. It brought everything up. She always tried to make the best situation possible. So we should do the same."