3 more teens face charges in HS student’s murder; 2 sought

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Three more teens are facing murder charges in connection to the murder of an East Kentwood High School senior, including two still sought by police.

The Kent County Prosecutor’s Office said 17-year-old Kayleb Douglas Sims, 18-year-old Alanah Claflin-Gallagos and 17-year-old Israel Valdez are facing charges in Sunday’s shooting death of 17-year-old James King. The teens are each facing one count of open murder, one count of assault with intent to rob while armed and one of conspiracy to commit armed robbery.

Sims and Valdez are still at large. According to court documents, it was Valdez who shot and killed King. Police believe Sims drove the getaway car as the suspects left the scene of the shooting.

Claflin-Gallagos has been arrested and was arraigned Friday afternoon. A judge denied her bond due to the seriousness of her charges.

East Kentwood High School junior Ahmed Hasan was formally charged Wednesday with open murder and conspiracy to commit armed robbery in the case. A judge set the 17-year-old’s bond at $500,000. 

King’s cousin told 24 Hour News 8 they were selling marijuana in the parking lot of the Towne & Country Shopping Center in Grand Rapids on Jan. 13 when the robbery and shooting happened

Court documents show the suspects had planned to rob King during the deal. They were allegedly in a Dodge Magnum with King when Valdez shot King in the face as he either fell out or was pushed out of the car. 

King’s cousin said he held King in the parking lot as he waited for rescuers to arrive. King died at the scene.

Sims, who was allegedly driving the Magnum, sped off from the scene, court documents show. Police later found the vehicle at Hasan’s nearby home where Hasan told investigators he and the other three suspects had gone to the Towne & Country Shopping Center with the intention to rob King.

Valdez’ mother, Jennifer Valdez, has also been charged with a felony in connection to the case. She is facing one count of lying to a peace officer in a violent crime investigation. 

According to court records, after the shooting happened, Jennifer Valdez told officers she didn’t know any of the other suspects – or have contact with them. But police say that was a lie, as Valdez spoke with Claflin-Gallagos and was aware of her involvement in the murder, but denied that knowledge to police. 

24 Hour News 8 was there when Jennifer Valdez was released from jail Friday afternoon on a personal recognizance bond, but she refused to answer any questions – including whether she knows where her son is. 

All four of the teenage suspects are facing the possibility of life in prison.

“We’re just seeing too many crimes like this involving kids in our community and it’s just – it needs to stop,” Grand Rapids Police Sgt. Dan Adams told 24 Hour News 8 Friday. 

Adams said that if you see Israel Valdez or Sims, do not approach them, rather, call 911 as they could be armed and dangerous. 

Anyone with information should call Grand Rapids police at 616.456.3400 or contact Silent Observer at 616.774.2345 or www.silentobserver.org

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