Teen pleads guilty in EK student’s death

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The teen accused of pulling the trigger in the deadly shooting of an East Kentwood High School senior faces sentencing.

This week, Israel Valdez pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and felony firearm possession.

Earlier this year, Valdez was charged with open murder, assault with intent to rob while armed and armed robbery in connection to Jan. 13 shooting death of 17-year-old James King. However, prosecutors reduced those charges as part of a plea agreement. 

King’s cousin previously told News 8 they were selling marijuana in the parking lot of the Towne & Country Shopping Center in Grand Rapids when a customer tried to rob them, shooting King in the head.

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An undated courtesy photo of James King.

Court documents indicate the suspects had planned to rob King during the deal. Investigators say they were in Ahmed Hasan’s Dodge Magnum with King when Valdez shot King in the face. King then either fell out or was pushed out of the car, the documents state.

King’s cousin said he held King in the parking lot at Kalamazoo Avenue and 44th Street SE as he waited for rescuers to arrive. King died at the scene.

Police say they found the Magnum at Hasan’s home not far from where the shooting happened. Hasan told investigators he and suspects had gone to the Towne & Country Shopping Center with the intention to rob King, according to court records.

In September, four other teens, Kayleb Sims, Alanah Claflin, Sebastian Quinones and Hasan, took plea deals in connection to the death. 

Sims pleaded guilty to assault with intent to commit robbery while armed. Charges of murder and conspiracy to commit armed robbery were dropped.

Claflin pleaded guilty to armed robbery. Charges of murder, assault with intent to commit robbery while armed and conspiracy to commit armed robbery were dropped.

Quinones pleaded guilty to armed robbery. Charges of murder and conspiracy to commit armed robbery were dropped.

Hasan pleaded guilty to assault with intent to commit robbery while armed. Charges of murder, armed robbery and conspiracy to commit armed robbery were dropped.

At the time, all the suspects were 17 or 18.

Valdez could be sentenced up to 23 years in prison for second-degree murder. For the firearm charge, he could face a maximum of two years.

Prosecutors are hoping that all five suspects will be sentenced Oct. 23.

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