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Updated Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 10:46 PM

Chinese student held on $2M bail in Des Moines crash

By Sara Jean Green
Seattle Times staff reporter

A 19-year-old community-college student was charged Thursday with four counts of vehicular assault for allegedly driving his newly purchased Mercedes-Benz at freeway speeds on a residential street in Des Moines on Saturday, running a stop sign and slamming into another car, seriously injuring four people, according to King County prosecutors.

Yichun Xu, a Chinese national who has been in the country for two months while attending South Puget Sound Community College, is being held in the King County Jail in lieu of $2 million bail, according to court and jail records. He also has been charged with two counts of reckless endangerment, charging papers say.

Xu is also being held on an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) hold because he apparently did not properly submit his student paperwork to be in the country, the papers say.

Though he had a driver's license in China, Xu did not have an international license, nor had he ever driven in the United States, according to charging papers.

Should he be released, prosecutors have asked that he surrender his passport and refrain from driving, the papers say.

Brenda Gomez-Zapata, the 25-year-old driver of a red BMW that was broadsided by Xu's Mercedes, suffered a traumatic brain injury and her condition continues to deteriorate, Senior Deputy Prosecutor Amy Freedheim wrote in charging documents. At the time of the crash, Gomez-Zapata was driving four family members to a birthday party.

She "is not expected to make any meaningful recovery," Freedheim wrote.

Her 14-year-old brother, Juan Carlos Gomez-Zapata, also suffered a traumatic brain injury and his prognosis is unknown. Itsi Gomez, 14, suffered a head injury, multiple rib fractures and bruising to the lungs, according to Freedheim. All three are at Harborview Medical Center.

Elizabeth Zapata, also 14, suffered broken bones and other injuries, while 17-year-old Ignasio Zapata suffered soft-tissue injuries.

Xu was treated for a leg injury at Highline Hospital and one of his passengers, Xinran Zhao, 18, was also treated at Highline for a head injury, charging papers say. Xu's other passengers were an 18-year-old woman who declined medical treatment and two 17-year-olds, who weren't hurt, the papers say.

A little after 3 p.m. Saturday, Xu was driving a C300 he had purchased four days earlier back to his Des Moines apartment after going to a grocery store in Kent, according to charging papers. One witness estimated the Mercedes was traveling at 70 mph along 20th Avenue South before running a stop sign at the intersection with South 240th Street and slamming into Brenda Gomez-Zapata's car, the papers say.

According to charging papers, Xu had $542 in his wallet at the time of his arrest and "requested several times that in lieu of being booked into jail, he requested to bail out right away," charging papers say.

His parents "immediately arrived from China and are believed to be in Western Washington," say the papers, which note that the United States "has no extradition treaty with China."

Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or


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