Falana Young-Wyatt remembers the day her son, Dwone Anderson-Young, came out to her at age 14. "I wanted him to have safe sex," she remembers. "He was like, 'I'm not going to do anything with no girl, because I'm gay!' And he just blurts it out."
"You're my son! I don't care that you are gay. I love you," Young-Wyatt says she told him. "I just want you to be happy." At the time, she worked at a coffee stand. She had a lot of gay friends among her customers. A year prior, her sister had come out.
In high school, Anderson-Young started going down the wrong path with a bad crowd, his mother says. But he quickly got back on track. At Garfield High School, a counselor suggested he enroll in the Running Start program. After high school, he worked during the day and took night classes at the University of Washington. He graduated with a degree in communications and began working in the IT department at Harborview Medical Center. He had big things ahead of him, possibly including a move to Japan.
Anderson-Young moved into his mom's Leschi home at the start of this summer. "Some days I wake up," she says, "and I expect him to come through that door like nothing ever happened. I see his shoes by the door and I'm like, 'He's coming home.'"
On June 1, he went out with a friend named Ahmed Said to R Place, a nightclub on Capitol Hill at the corner of East Pine Street and Boylston Avenue. "Just have fun!" his mom told him. Usually, she said, he took a cab home.
But according to police reports, he got a ride from Said back to the house that night, after the bars closed. And it was there in the car, not far from his mother's doorstep, that a third man opened fire from the backseat, killing them both. Charging documents say they were killed execution-style, shot multiple times in the head and back.
After initially naming the wrong person as a suspect, police lifted a fingerprint from the vehicle and launched a manhunt for a six-foot-one man identified as Ali Muhammad Brown, who they said was already wanted for failing to register as a sex offender.
Apprehended in the woods in New Jersey on July 18, Brown now faces aggravated murder charges for Anderson-Young and Said's deaths, as well as a murder charge for the April 27 death of Leroy Henderson in Skyway. He's still being held in New Jersey, where he's been charged with the June 25 murder of a student named Brendan Tevlin. There, he'll face trial for Tevlin's murder, then be extradited to King County, Young-Wyatt says police told her, a process that could take between six months and two years.
According to a police report written by King County Sheriff detective John Pavlovich, Brown confessed to the killings in an interview with police at a New Jersey detention center. In an interview, the report says, "Brown stated that he strictly followed the Muslim faith and as part of his beliefs, he had become angry with 'evil' that the government was allowing to take place in the United States, and was also angry with the role the United states government was taking in the countries of Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan that had led to the death of innocent civilians and children there. Brown mentioned drug use as an 'evil act' amongst others. During the interview Brown also stated that, as part of his beliefs, 'if a man sees evil then he must take action against that evil.'"
"What has that got to do with these poor guys?" asks a friend of the Said family, who asked not to be named. According to him, Said's parents did not know that their son was gay. They have not talked to the press.
Said looked out for his extended family's younger kids. "His uncle never worried about back-to-school for the kids, because Ahmed would take care of it," the family friend says. "He was my eyes," Said's grieving mother told him. "They took away my eyes."
Said and his family are Muslim. A source with knowledge of the investigation told me that at the time of his death, Said was starting to work within the Somali community on HIV and LGBTQ issues.
The details trickling out from authorities of how, exactly, these two promising young men were singled out have rattled Capitol Hill. The neighborhood has seen a rash of hate crimes this year. About one week after Brown was caught and arrested, Musab Masmari was sentenced to 10 years in prison for trying to set a packed Neighbours nightclub ablaze on New Year's Eve, though in that case, prosecutors could not prove that it was a hate crime.
According to police interviews with friends, after last call at R Place on June 1, Said and Anderson-Young crossed the street to meet someone whom nobody else knew. One friend, identified as J.R. by police, "said he had a bad feeling" about the stranger. The man "seemed out of place among them." Another friend, identified as P.P., stated that Said was on his cell phone throughout the night. "P.P. said that he thought Said was on an app like Grindr or Jack'd," according to police. When the club closed, P.P. didn't like the look of the man across the street and, like J.R., declined to get a ride home with Said, Anderson-Young, and the stranger. He later identified Brown from a photo lineup.
In response to a request for comment on the case, Grindr sent me a link to their online safety tips. In May, when Vocativ.com asked Grindr about a string of violent crimes linked to the app, the company responded, "If we are contacted by the authorities about an investigation, we fully cooperate with their requests. Regarding the recent incidents you pointed out, our thoughts and prayers are with the victims' family and friends."
The double homicide happened almost three months ago, but it's only now, because of the bloody trail that Brown left on both coasts, and reports that he was a "jihadist," that their deaths are starting to make national headlines. An August 23 New York Post article by right-wing author Michelle Malkin described Brown as a "jihadist serial killer" and claimed, "These homegrown Muslim haters... They're living and working among us, embedded in local mosques and in our military." Seattle's Fox affiliate, Q13, citing unnamed sources, said Brown attended a "jihadist training camp." Asked about those claims, Seattle Police Department spokesman Detective Patrick Michaud said he's looked into them, speaking with various figures involved in the investigation. But he couldn't substantiate that Brown attended any kind of jihadist training and doesn't know how those claims originated.
"I think he is a serial killer and he's using this jihadist language as a justification for the people that he killed," says Jeff Siddiqui of American Muslims of Puget Sound. "I think he's trying to create righteousness out of an evil... it's no different from the people who killed Sikhs and said they did it because they want to protect America. There's no difference."
"This was my worst fear for my son ever since he told me was gay," Anderson-Young's mother says. She called Brown a coward and said she intends to face him at the trial. "I will be at every fucking court date."