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Manhunt locks down area around Capitol Hill’s Lowell Elementary — UPDATE

Seattle Police swarmed the blocks around Capitol Hill’s Lowell Elementary and locked down the school Wednesday afternoon after a parent escorting his child on a field trip recognized a wanted fugitive on the outing.

Police and K9 units fanned out around 12th and Mercer searching yards and inside vehicles after the suspect, 39-year-old Donald Vasser, fled as police were called to the school. The lockdown kept some students inside the school for more than two hours.

Vasser eventually turned himself into police Wednesday night.


In a statement issued after the incident, school principal Gregory King said a review was underway to find out why Vasser was allowed to accompany his child on the class outing to the Capitol Hill skating rink.

Vasser was not found by police and is believed to have fled the area. His last known address is a south Seattle location, a police officer at the scene told CHS. UPDATE: Vasser turned himself in earlier tonight. According to police, the suspect turned himself in to the King County Jail just shortly before 6:00 Wednesday evening.

UPDATE THURSDAY 12/15/11 9:10 AM: We’re trying to find out more information about the SPD’s decision to contact Vasser at the school and to try to learn more about any threats or weapons involved in the incident but have not been able yet to speak with department spokespeople. We’re told the decision to lock down Lowell was made by the school’s administration and that SPD was responding to a call that a possibly armed felon was in the area. The administration, in turn, was responding to the parent’s report that a felon with a history of assault and weapon use was on their grounds.

The result was a swift and complete police response. Overkill? Perhaps. The situation boiled down to a parolee father escorting his child on a field trip who decided to flee when he learned the police had been called. No gun was seen. No threats were made. Assessing each level of escalation, however, it’s not clear when a different decision could have been made.

ORIGINAL REPORT AND UPDATES: SPD has Lowell Elementary surrounded and locked down this afternoon as a suspect has been tracked down to the area.

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26 thoughts on “Manhunt locks down area around Capitol Hill’s Lowell Elementary — UPDATE

  1. Thanks for the info. I just went home for lunch and saw all the cars on my way back to work. This site is always great for things like this. Watch out everyone…there’s a ‘Very Bad Man’!

  2. it is scary- just accidentally drove by the school on my way home. took my dog out to pee a few blocks away very quickly. never seen this many machine guns on cap hill. and the copter is circling.
    asked a passing cop what was going on (before read this)- he said they were looking for someone but it was over now.

  3. it breaks my heart to think what his kid experienced today, along with all the other kids and staff at the school. I don’t know enough about his criminal history to make a judgement about whether the police response and subsequent school lockdown was warranted — perhaps it was. But the entire episode is sad nonetheless.

  4. Perhaps he is a dealer or something but he was convicted on possession charges and his parole violation was having alcohol on the premises. Let’s have some perspective here. What else has he done that would warrant such a ruckus?

  5. Sounds like he made the “high violent” list because at one point in his drug arrests he assaulted a cop. That’s probably why they went for the shotguns and machine guns. I’m disgusted that SPD would wave this sort of live artillery around our kids and neighborhoods just because some black guy with a drug problem wanted to go ice skating with his daughter. Maybe next time they should bring hand grenades, too.

  6. Agree on sad and sounds like an overreaction. What happened to the child at the school? How did he/she get home? And really, coming to Seattle from the east coast, not trying to make light of crime but I kept waiting to hear what violent awful thing he did and it just doesn’t sound like much.

  7. Not to take the bait or anything, but up to the point where this guy took off, the description of this incident reads exactly like many other situations where the guy kills the kid’s mother and himself and shoots half a dozen people along the way. The police’s show of force was absolutely appropriate and may well have prevented the situation from escalating. If the guy had been bent on mayhem and high on bath salts, which is not an entirely unreasonable thing to expect these days, you might have been thankful that the cops showed up well-armed.

  8. Given the peaceful resolution of the suspect turning himself in, I can see why this would seem like overkill but with the initial information available, I think the police response was appropriate. If the suspect had a gun (which appears to have been intially reported but unconfirmed) and decided to take hostages or go on a rampage, everyone would be screaming that the police didn’t do enough to prevent it.

  9. I too think it was overkill. The person who recognized the “bad man” was just reporting that he’d been seen. He wasn’t doing anything else threatening, so the police could have tried to pick him up w/o being so heavy handed, locking the school down, etc.