Army Ranger Charged with Killing 2, Injuring 3 in Music Festival Shooting

June 24, 2023
Gavel and American flag with scales of justice.

Prosecutors have charged a 26-year-old member of the U.S. Army with killing two women and injuring three other people during an electronic dance music festival at the Gorge Amphitheatre.

James M. Kelly faces two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of first-degree assault and one count of first-degree domestic violence assault in the shooting at the Beyond Wonderland festival, according to Grant County Superior Court documents. He’s being held without bail at the county jail.

Kelly told detectives he took a dose of psychedelic mushrooms that caused him to hallucinate, and his girlfriend recalled him saying he thought the world was ending, according to probable cause documents. He then went to his truck to retrieve a gun and ultimately shot an engaged Seattle couple, Brandy Escamilla and Josilyn Ruiz, and seriously injured his girlfriend, another festival attendee and an employee, the documents allege.

Kelly, an active member of the U.S. Army at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, alleges his hallucinations might have led to the shooting, according to court documents.

One study suggests psilocybin use is associated with low odds of violent and aggressive behavior, and a forensic psychiatrist notes the effects of psychedelics are “dose dependent and difficult to predict,” with recent research bolstering the claim that psychedelics are generally not linked to violent crime.

States such as Oregon and Colorado have legalized the use of psilocybin with some restrictions, though it remains illegal at the federal level. Washington has stalled efforts to legalize the medical use of psychedelic compounds found in mushrooms.

In the past 15 years, several clinical studies approved by the Food and Drug Administration indicate psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy’s value in treating depression, anxiety and addiction. However, extensive research has been limited because of the stigma and criminalization.

Kelly told investigators he took a dose of mushrooms before he and his girlfriend walked to the concert venue Saturday, according to probable cause documents. Once there, he began to feel the effects and believed the world was “ending,” documents say.

He then grabbed a handgun from his truck, loaded a magazine and chambered a cartridge, court documents state. The Gorge prohibits weapons of any kind at its venue and campground. It’s unclear what level of security enforces that policy at the campgrounds, but police said they are investigating.

Shortly before 8:30 p.m., Kelly shot Escamilla and Ruiz, who were walking through the campground, according to court documents. He also shot a 31-year-old man from Eugene, Ore., who headed to the area when he heard the gunshots, documents allege.

Kelly’s girlfriend called 911 but was only able to tell a dispatcher Kelly had a gun before he discarded her phone, court documents state. Kelly then shot an employee responding to the reports of gunfire, according to the documents, and made his way to an adjacent field, where a Sheriff’s Office drone spotted him.

Kelly shot his girlfriend twice and also fired at the drone, hitting it once, documents allege.

Police then found them and a detective shot him, striking him once, documents say. He was taken to a hospital and later to jail.

Kelly’s arraignment is scheduled for July 5. During an arraignment, a defendant is apprised of their rights and has charges presented. The defendant is then required to enter a plea.

Superior Court Judge Anna L. Gigliotti signed an order Wednesday appointing Kelly counsel. He could face a sentence of up to life in prison, according to court documents.


(c)2023 The Seattle Times

Visit The Seattle Times at

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

© Copyright 2023 Seattle Times. All rights reserved.


Please rate this CIBA article

0 / 5 Number Of Votes: 0


Latest News Articles