Will Kramer bears the scars of violence.
The Mukilteo teen was shot in the back the night three of his friends were killed by their former Kamiak High School classmate. Kramer ran for safety as gunfire filled the Mukilteo house where friends were spending a warm July evening hanging out and catching up after what for many had been their first year in college.
“I’ve personally been affected in countless ways by this coward that sits before us,” Kramer wrote in a letter to Superior Court Judge Janice Ellis ahead of Thursday’s sentencing hearing.
“From the seventeen days spent in the hospital with tubes inside of me to endless nightmares and thoughts that poison my faith in humanity. However, this is nothing compared to the emptiness I feel as a result of my dear friends’ deaths. I miss them so much. They were the best of us, and I cannot put into words how shameful and pathetic it is that their lives ended because of one small man’s insecurities,” Kramer wrote.
The July 30 gunfire lasted only about 35 seconds. It touched so many lives that the courtroom was filled beyond capacity and some people watched the proceedings from a video feed in another room.
Ivanov, 20, read a prepared statement Thursday. He apologized repeatedly.
“There is no justification for what I did …. I am so, so sorry for causing all of you to be here today,” he said.
Ellis announced the sentence after absorbing nearly three hours of testimony from people who lost family or friends.
The judge listed all the varieties of sadness that people shared Thursday, “the incomprehensible emotions and the horrifying facts; the irreparable harm suffered and the indescribable pain; the ripping away of so much, and the world turned upside down.”
“Mr. Ivanov, this is what you have done,” she said. “Your actions are heinous. They are unpardonable.”
As she spoke, Ivanov sat with eyes downcast, his expression unreadable.
Ivanov pleaded guilty Dec. 19 to three counts of aggravated first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder. The move came the day before Prosecuting Attorney Mark Roe was scheduled to announce whether he would seek the death penalty.
Roe agreed not to pursue capital punishment. In exchange, Ivanov waived his right to a trial as well as an appeal of his sentence.
The former University of Washington-Bothell student admitted killing his former girlfriend, Anna Bui, and acquaintances Jacob Long and Jordan Ebner, all 19. He’s also acknowledged trying to murder Kramer and shooting at other young men as they ran for cover.
Kramer was in the first row of the courtroom Thursday. His father, Paul Kramer, told the judge how grateful he was that his son survived the assault by a person he described as a “completely defective human being” and a “deranged coward.”
“It is incomprehensible how a young man from our community could do something like this,” Paul Kramer said.
Alex Levin was seated outside the house with Will Kramer, Long and Ebner when the gunfire erupted. As he scrambled for safety, he felt the heat of a bullet as it narrowly missed him.
Accompanied by a service dog, Levin told the judge Thursday that he can’t explain why he lived and his friends did not. He spoke of how his memories of the good times they shared now often are crowded out by the memories of the violence that claimed them.
He listed all of the things that they will never share: weddings; the birth of children; the day-to-day joys of being alive.
“And I will not be able to tell them just one more time how much I love them,” he added.
“I’m selfish. That’s why I did this,” he wrote.
On Thursday, Ivanov suggested that he opened fire at the party as some sort of spontaneous and confused act. He also pointed the finger at current gun laws, saying they need to be changed.
“It was the ease of accessing a gun that allowed me to act on my emotions,” he said.
Ivanov bought a Ruger brand AR-15-style rifle as well as two magazines carrying 30 rounds apiece in the days before the shootings. He told friends he was thinking about harming Bui. They urged him to seek help and to get rid of the gun.
He later told detectives that he’d never fired the weapon before using it to kill at the house party.
Longtime attorney Walter Peale, who served on Ivanov’s defense team, told the court that he’s convinced Ivanov feels remorse. He said the defense team was focused on trying to keep their client alive. He said he was grateful that prosecutors entertained the plea agreement, resolving the case without trial and dodging a potential death sentence.
While awaiting trial, Ivanov wrote rap lyrics about the “murder game,” and appeared to directly reference the Mukilteo shootings. The lyrics became public when he enlisted his mother’s help in mailing them to a convicted killer he met while they both were awaiting trial in the county jail. Inmate mail is screened.
“Words can’t express the sheer rage I felt when I heard about the ‘rap’ lyrics Allen Ivanov had written, boasting about the crime,” Ebner’s step-mom wrote in a letter to the judge.
“Watching him wink at his mother in court and not being able to say or do anything left me feeling helpless. We are the victims, yet he seems to have all the rights in court,” Nicole Ebner wrote.
In her letter she described the anguish of watching her husband grieve for his son. “Many nights, he falls asleep in Jordan’s bed, wrapped in his favorite blanket,” she wrote.
Brad Ebner on Thursday called Ivanov a coward with a gun.
“He took my first, my first boy,” he said.
Autumn Snider brought the urn containing her son’s ashes to the courtroom. Jacob Long was gifted with intelligence, athletic ability and a knack for making people smile.
“Jacob’s gone. He is dead. Allen killed him,” she said, resting her hand on the urn.
Anny Bui told the judge that Ivanov had betrayed the trust she placed in him to keep her sister safe. Her sister wanted to spend her life helping others as a nurse.
Their family’s sense of security was stolen from them, Bui’s brother David wrote. “Nothing can be done to mend our wounds.”
The Bui family came to the U.S. from Vietnam. Her father sobbed openly in the courtroom Thursday and later spoke through an interpreter about a daughter lost. He urged young people to seek out help when confronted by what may appear to be overwhelming problems.
Deputy prosecutor Adam Cornell said Ivanov’s crimes were an attack on the community, and those who spoke for justice Thursday had demonstrated the community’s conscience.
The prosecutor paraphrased novelist Ernest Hemingway when he offered a benediction of hope. Sometimes things break us, Cornell said, but afterwards we may grow stronger in the broken places.
Scott North: 425-339-3431; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @snorthnews.