A 35-year-old Tacoma man has been charged with murder for the “senseless and unprovoked” fatal shooting of a Mountlake Terrace man at a Federal Way shopping center in December 2021, according to Federal Way Police.
Leonel Gonzalez was charged with first-degree murder and unlawful possession of a firearm in King County Superior Court on Jan. 21. He is currently in custody in Pierce County for an unrelated crime.
Charging documents accuse Gonzalez of killing “a complete stranger, in what appears to be a random, brutal and senseless carjacking,” wrote Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Jennifer Petersen.
Gonzalez is being held without bail and his arraignment is 9 a.m. Feb. 3 at the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent.
Ruvim Stukov, 20, was shot three times in the head, chest and shoulder, according to the King County Medical Examiner’s Office. The medical examiners determined the gunshots were fired at close range and his death was ruled a homicide.
Around 9:47 p.m. Dec. 8, 2021, Federal Way officers responded to a shooting in the parking lot of The Crossings near the 1400 block of South 348th Street.
Family members were concerned when Stukov did not return home after attending the Salvation Baptist Church in Edgewood earlier that night. A friend of Stukov’s told police on the scene that Stukov was last seen at church around 9 p.m. and often would stop to get dinner at the Panda Express restaurant in The Crossings, according to probable cause documents.
A witness reported seeing a silver Toyota Camry — later identified as belonging to Stukov’s brother — parked in The Crossings parking lot for some time and the engine was running. The witness told police she saw a man approach the rear driver’s side of Stukov’s parked vehicle holding a black handgun over his head, pointed at the car.
Surveillance video shows the gunfire, then the silver Toyota Camry fleeing southbound on I-5.
Officers located Stukov laying in the parking lot and attempted life-saving measures, but he was pronounced dead at the scene. Officers found .40 caliber cartridge casings near the scene. Police did not find any identification or a cell phone belonging to Stukov.
On Dec. 9, police located the silver Camry along Martin Luther King Jr. Way in Tacoma. DNA samples and fingerprints were collected from inside the vehicle, which appeared to have been rummaged through, documents state. The Camry’s front license plate was also in the passenger seat.
Surveillance video from businesses in The Crossings show Stukov in the Panda Express restaurant drive-thru around 9:24 p.m. Dec. 8 and he was alone. Video also shows him parking in the area he was later killed.
About 45 minutes before the shooting, Gonzalez is seen in a Federal Way Walmart store near The Crossings, where he attempts to make a transaction at the cell phone ecoATM Machine. The ecoATM Machines are used to recycle electronics for cash.
Gonzalez is later seen walking in The Crossings and approaching Stukov’s vehicle. A flash of gunfire erupts and the vehicle then leaves the parking lot.
On Jan. 7, Gonzalez’s fingerprints were recovered from the license plate inside the Camry.
Gonzalez has been convicted of 13 felonies in Washington, including robbery, assault and unlawful possession of a firearm. Most recently, he was charged with third-degree rape for a July 2021 incident and is in custody in Pierce County Jail, according to charging documents.
The day after the Dec. 8 shooting, Gonzalez was arrested by the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office for possession of a stolen firearm, among other charges, after he was found passed out on a bus. He was also wearing the same clothing as seen during the shooting the night before. Deputies found the firearm was reported stolen from the Lynnwood Police Department.
During a search, Gonzalez was in possession of Stukov’s bank card and a receipt with the name of Stukov’s father on it, according to police documents.
In a Jan. 19 interview with police, Gonzalez said he lost his iPhone on the bus in Tacoma on Dec. 8 and purchased a new Motorola cell phone. Once he recovered his missing iPhone, he told police he intended to cell the Motorola cell phone, but denied being in Federal Way that night.
Gonzalez told police he spent the night of Dec. 8 in the Allenmore Hospital for a back injury. Gonzalez allegedly was unable to tell police why he had Stukov’s property or why his fingerprints were found inside Stukov’s Camry, police documents state.
Gonzalez’s girlfriend later identified the suspect in an image from the Federal Way Walmart on Dec. 8. Cell phone records also show Gonzalez was near The Crossings at the time of the shooting.
‘Heart of gold’
Ruvim Stukov’s funeral was held Dec. 14, 2021. He was the second child in his family, with an older brother and a younger sister.
In his eulogy, Stukov is described as ”a wonderful example for many of how to sacrifice themselves for the glory of God.”
Stukov was a musician who played piano, guitar, violin and sang for his church. He also participated in his church’s Sunday school ministry.
“Everyone will agree that he had a heart of gold and his rosy cheeks made his smile contagious,” his eulogy stated.