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‘Take back the neighborhood’ — Officials plan response to Central District gun violence — UPDATE

A wave of shootings and street crime will bring city and police officials to the Central District’s Powell Barnett Park Thursday night for a community meeting to “take back the neighborhood” and “stop the violence.”

Mayor Ed Murray and SPD Chief Kathleen O’Toole are expected to attend the gathering planned for 6 PM in the south end of the park along Alder.

UPDATE: The mayor and chief will also be part of a media conference “to address gun violence” Thursday morning at 14th Ave’s First AME Church:

Mayor Murray, Chief O’Toole, and faith leaders from across Seattle come together this morning to speak to gun violence, its impacts and the community’s response.

UPDATE 12:00 PM: Thursday’s media conference inside the First AME Church at 14th and Pine began and ended with a prayer in a session that brought together black leaders from Seattle’s spiritual and business communities with city officials.

IMG_6106“If you can’t get it right in Martin Luther King County, you not gonna get it right in any place in the nation,” activist and community leader Charlie James said.

Mayor Murray and Chief O’Toole said police will only be part of the solution.

“Policing is part of the answer,” Murray said. “Better policing is part of the answer.”

“But that’s not going to be good enough.”

But there is apparently more to do on the policing side. The officials announced that SPD has begun the process to reassess the use of surveillance camera technology as an avenue to reduce street violence in Seattle.

Chief O’Toole said that community and business groups in the Central District and International District have asked for the technology.

“We are open and we are looking at it,” Murray said.

In 2010, controversy over privacy and SPD policies lead to the eventual removal of surveillance cameras from Cal Anderson Park while SPD’s cameras at other area facilities remained in place. Murray and O’Toole said that SPD is approaching things differently this time with the chief looking at “national models” for how other big cities handle the technology. There is no current plan or timetable for deployment, the officials said.

Reverend Harriet Walden said her Mothers for Police Accountability should be counted among the city’s community groups calling for the new cameras. “We want convictions,” she said.

Chief O’Toole also thanked representatives from the FBI and ATF who attended the Thursday morning conference and said more information will be release later today about a new partnership with the federal agencies that is improving SPD’s ability to analyze crime scenes. O’Toole said that ATF technicians were able to connect 10 recent shootings in Seattle to one handgun — and presumably one shooter — thanks to ballistics analysis. UPDATE: More on the analysis in an update at the bottom of this post.

O’Toole said efforts to quell gun violence should be focused “on a small group of people” who are “terrorizing our community.” She also said police work must be matched by social programs and “more enrichment programs for young people.”

In the near term, SPD officials did not provide any specifics for increased patrols or police resources deployed in the Central District.

Murray said the city must do more to address gun violence from a policy standpoint as well as grow youth job programs. Seattle’s summer youth employment program has reached 2,000 jobs in 2015, Murray said.

The mayor also pointed to a new initiative funded by a Bloomberg grant to assess city programs designed to address African American youth. “The dial hasn’t moved much,” Murray said. The new initiative has been put in place “to find out why we are not changing the results.”

“We’re dealing with internalized racism, and hatred,” Reverend Walden said. “We’ve been here before.”

Original report: Concerns about nightly reports of gunfire were sadly justified earlier this month when Torrence Phillips was gunned down on 24th Ave in a late afternoon shooting. The week before, a 31-year-old man was left bleeding in the parking lot of Swedish Cherry Hill after being shot in the chest in an incident at Powell Barnett. The murder and violence along with the recent stretch of regular gunfire reports and incidents like this scary, reportedly random shooting of a car full of kids on the 4th of July have pushed officials to act.

While nothing has been officially announced, past efforts to quell street violence in the area have included increased presence of SPD vehicle patrols and prominent deployment of the department’s mobile command unit vans. The crackdowns have also often included undercover gang unit operations and aggressive sweeps to net warrant suspects and clear out areas where people are known to gather to buy drugs or gamble.

Troy Meyers, the new chair of the East Precinct Advisory Council, told CHS that gang issues are his number one worry.

“Almost all of the shootings we see are gang related,” Meyers said. “I really just want to see an improvement in relationships between the police department and the community.”  Meyers wants his group to be more involved in shaping SPD’s SeaStat crime analysis to help the department better deploy resources around the precinct.

20% of reported assaults involving firearms in 2015 have taken place between Madison and I-90 according to SPD data compiled by CHS:

The Seattle Times reports that gunfire incidents are up across the city:

According to police, there were 204 reports of gunfire throughout the city between Jan. 1 and July 6. During the same period in 2014, there were 168. For the same January-to-July time frame in 2013, the total was 150. The vast majority of the shootings this year have not resulted in death or injury. But 38 people have been wounded by gunfire in 2015, compared with 29 over the same period in 2014. Deputy Police Chief Carmen Best said that in response to the gunfire increase, officers have been increasing their visibility on the streets and are targeting people with an active arrest warrant.

Meanwhile, Tim Burgess introduced his City Council legislation Wednesday morning to tax gun and ammunition sales in Seattle “for gun-safety research and prevention programs.”

The wave of violence — and the attention on bringing it to an end — comes as the Central District is being lined up for massive new developments and City Hall is making plans to extend upzoning farther into the neighborhoods where development was restricted in the past by racist policies and practices.

UPDATE 4:08 PM: Seattle Police have posted a report with details of the ATF analysis and a search for suspects seen using the weapon trace to 10 different shootings around Seattle:

Since 2013, detectives have been following the trail of a 9mm Luger pistol, used in ten shootings in the Seattle area.

After a shooting at a Central District park last month, detectives now have pictures of a man seen wielding the weapon, and are hoping someone can help identify him.

A witness captured two men on camera on June 25th at Powell Barnett Park as they fired shots at a passing vehicle.

With the help of the Puget Sound Regional Crime Gun Taskforce–a partnership between Seattle police, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the Washington State Patrol crime lab–detectives were able to tie the 9mm Luger to nine other incidents of gunfire in the Seattle area since 2013:

October 28, 2013 – 9:55 PM: Police found five shell casings connected with the gun in the street at 43rd Avenue S. and S. Othello, but no victims or damage.

December 22nd, 2013 – 10:04 PM: Officers found someone had fired nine rounds from the gun at 47th Ave S. and S. Juneau St. Again, no damage or victims.

June 12, 2015 – 9:59 PM: the gun was used to fire at least one shot at a white vehicle as it sped away from a gas station parking lot at 23rd Ave and E. Union St. No injuries or damage were reported to police.

June 24, 2014 – 6:13 PM: Witnesses reported someone opened fire from the passenger seat of a black Dodge sedan as it sped through the 9000 block of Rainier Ave. S. Police found evidence two guns were fired near the scene, and bullets fired during the incident struck a 60-year-old man in the leg and shattered the windshield of a passing vehicle.

June 25, 2015 – 9:10 PM: The gun was used in a shooting at Powell-Barnett Park. Officers were unable to find anyone with injuries at the scene, but a 31-year-old man later arrived at a Central District hospital with a gunshot wound. A motorist also contacted police and reported their car had been struck by gunfire as they drove past the park.

June 25, 2015 – 9:50 PM: Two men (pictured above) opened fire at Judkins Park. No one was injured in the shooting, but a motorist passing by the park ran a red light and struck two cars after hearing the gunfire.

June 26, 2015 – 12:40 AM: The gun was one of two fired at a gas station in the 9200 block of Rainier Ave S. Bullets fired from the Luger, and at least one other gun, struck nearby businesses and a nearby apartment building, where officers later recovered a bullet found on top of a resident’s bed. No one was injured in the incident.

July 4, 2015 – 11:27 PM: Officers met a woman in the I-90 bridge, after she called 911 and reported her car had been struck by gunfire near 25th Avenue S. and S. Massachusetts St. The woman and three children in the vehicle were not injured in the incident.

July 10, 2015 – 12:55 AM: An 18-year-old man was shot in the torso and leg near 46th Ave S. and S. Henderson St. Officers found the man, and medics transported him to Harborview Medical Center in critical condition.

Police believe the Luger handgun was used in all nine of these shootings, as well as an exchange of gunfire between two groups in the Renton area in July 2014, which left four people injured.

Detectives are looking for leads to help them track down the Luger and suspects in these incidents. Please call the Seattle Police Department’s violent crime tip line at (206) 233-5000 with any information about these cases.

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31 thoughts on “‘Take back the neighborhood’ — Officials plan response to Central District gun violence — UPDATE

  1. I’d be curious to know how much of this violence is being perpetrated by people who come into the neighborhood looking for trouble, versus those who live here. If it turns out they are coming up from the south end, how will the ammo tax help? Just stop and pick up some ammo at the Renton Wal-Mart on your way to an evening in the CD.

  2. What about the bangers constantly loitering and dealing drugs in front of the Twilight Exit. I’ve had harsh words with the owner, but he has done everything he legally can to try to get rid of these guys. He, also, is at his wits end. I’ve seen 3 cop cars a few feet away with a traffic stop and and have personally watched a drug deal go down. It seem the police just don’t give a shit. I guess we’re just going to have to wait until there is a shooting there before they will lift a finger to do anything about the gang and drug activity on that block.

    • There was a shooting at Twilight Exit, what, 2 or 3 years ago? I still go there, but after that happened I stayed away for a while. Nothing’s changed and I agree that the cops haven’t done anything about drug deals. I’ve seen 3 or 4 happen in broad daylight just in the neighborhood between Jackson and union in the past 2 years.

      • The Twilight Exit shooting was completely unrelated to the drug dealing that happens on Cherry. Talking about the crime-of-passion twilight exit shooting of years past ago when people just died in the last few days at the park due to actual gang-related violence is so out of touch. Gentrifiers, have you no shame?

    • The shootings, gang activity, drug dealing, and other assorted violence have been happening in our part of the CD for the entire nine years we have owned our home. The police response has always been pathetic.

      While the activity has moved out of the blocks immediately surrounding my house, it has just gone to other parts of the neighborhood and is increasing. I see a lot of gang loitering in certain areas on my daily walk to work. The numbers in this story demonstrate that things are clearly getting worse under Ed Murray’s leadership. I wonder if this announcement about getting tough on crime is meant as some type of consolation prize for CD residents since parts of our neighborhood are being upzoned. It could just be that he now wants to start cleaning things up to make way for his developer friends.

      • Don’t expect too much from Mayor “rainbow crosswalk” other than ignoring the problem and sweet talking developers like all other previous mayors in this city.

      • That’s right. As soon as Mayor Murray gets the final word from his developer buddies regarding how they want the city to be planned out moving forward, he’ll surely get the police to mobilize and clean up those areas of interest. Until that time it’s a paid vacation for the boys in blue. It’s definitely gotten worse under Murray.

  3. I hope their response include cracking down on the gang activity and associated armed robberies on Capitol Hill too.

  4. I hope that we all continue to approach these folks in gangs with compassion, too. They are people who need help and support, too, and many are part of our communities and maybe we raised here in Seattle/CD! From what I’ve heard from folks who have been in gangs or are friends with people who are, some folks don’t choose this life… They may be born into it or are forced to join out of fear and manipulation.

    Let’s also be aware that folks we may see “loitering” and we characterize as gangbangers (bc of their clothing, cars, loud music, race, gender, etc.) may not be. I have seen some sad prejudice lately of claiming people hanging out in the neighborhood are dangerous or creepy but there is no evidence of that behavior (and in fact evidence from other community members who know those folks as the opposite!)

    Of course, the violence is Not Okay! And I think that we can come together and hold both of the feelings at once: working hard to prevent more violence by asking for more [community-oriented, anti-bias] police presence AND supporting folks in changing to get out of a life of criminal activity that hurts themselves and others.

  5. “We’re dealing with internalized racism, and hatred.”

    How is it racism when this crime is black people shooting black people? That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard this week.

    • …and what leads to these shootings? Bigger picture – look at it like a flow chart of what leads up to a shooting. I believe this is what Rev. Walden was talking about.

      Why are they in gangs? Why are gangs primarily black or Latino? Why did those guys choose to join a violent gang?

      There has to be a way to intervene when the kids are young. What kind of opportunities can we as a community give them so they choose a different path that doesn’t end with shooting each other in the CD. Or, even worse – when they accidentally kill someone who was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

      • Exactly. Thank you, Carol. That’s what I was attempting to express in my earlier comment. I’ve worked for years with teens in distressed situations, and the challenges in their lives can be great, and the tools required to overcome are sometimes unattainable/unavailable.

      • Here’s a thought – if you don’t have the resources to properly house, parent and supervise children – don’t have kids!!! Doesn’t the flow chart begin with the two humans who decided to have the kids???

        Unless, of course, the uncontrolled urge to not use contraceptives is something inculcated by the obviously evil power structure of this country from which all of society’s ills stem. If that’s the case, then I suppose the parents of these little rascals are relieved of any responsibility for their mechanistic and biologically deterministic reproductive behavior.

    • “We’re dealing with internalized racism, and hatred.”

      Too lofty and not really the reason why some young men turn to gang banging and/or violence. If the statement was true and poor people were destined to violence no one would be able to leave their home. Seattle is far too tolerant of anti social behavior and mistaking it for something it isn’t.

      • Actually, maybe not. Maybe this is internalized racism in that these bangers don’t pull this in West Seattle or Magnolia or Bellevue. They only do it in the old redlined neighborhoods, as if they feel they don’t belong in those other neighborhoods.

  6. In the meantime at 6:30 this morning a deranged woman set a fire and then threw bottles and anything else she could get find on the main road near the art museum in Volunteer Park. We called the police; they connected us to the fire dept. and they were typically difficult. As she hurled things across the lawn and the fire was burning we chose to leave the park. We never heard sirens or saw the cops. We returned in our car about 10 minutes later and the cops were looking for her. It was infuriating. 10 minutes after that 3 cops at Broadway & Thomas were giggling with a hyped up homeless person telling him they had received complaints that he was out of control and to please “keep it down” and “have a nice day.” We don’t live in a neighborhood anymore, it’s an insane asylum, literally. There isn’t one city council candidate that will address this.

      • This is what happens when policing becomes a dirty word.

        I saw police just talking to a homeless person a few months ago, and some hipster activist was berating the police calling them racist pigs, while recording it on her iPhone, likely trying to illicit a reaction.

        Of course the police don’t care, if they do their job they might be the next one on the CNN witch hunt.

      • SPD has earned their terrible reputation without any help from people with cell phones. That’s a lame excuse. The city needs to fire this current crop and hire people as officers who actually live in the city. SPD uses our tax coffers like it is their personal ATM. Why would they care when our Chief and Mayor certainly don’t hold them accountable? Witch hunt, what a ridiculous comment. No one is out to get the police, we just expect them to serve our community within the bounds of the law. If any SPD officer is that unhappy and feels they can’t do their job because of all the mean citizens of Seattle who are out to get them, they should quit and go serve where they live.

      • You can’t require municipal employees to live in town. There was a lawsuit several years back that settled that.

      • Bad rep? Yeah that’s what kept bad guys in check. Come on, cops do what they do best, learn to survive their day. Sometimes they have to use force and when they do it’s never good. This results in what everyone has wanted to do and that is get back at the police. It makes awesome headlines and the media eats it up. Meanwhile cops adapt to their environment to avoid being crucified. You want well behaved cops to police unruly dangerous people and have no support from anyone when things go wrong? Good luck with that.

        You can replace ALL your cops. The new ones will also learn to survive your toxic environment.

        This trend has been in action way before the mayor and chief came here. You have the power to change things, you already have, for the better and worst.

        The most important position in SPD goes to someone not only out of the city, but outside of the entire NW. Yet you want cops to be from Seattle.

  7. The shooter pictured in the white t-shirt at Judkins Park has a HUGE scar on the left side of his head and is missing his left ear. If you see this guy call the cops as he, or his buddy, may be in possession of the gun involved in the 10 shootings.

    For better photo see http://spdblotter.seattle.gov/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Suspect-1-215136-copy.png and http://spdblotter.seattle.gov/2015/07/16/police-looking-for-gunmen-pistol-tied-to-ten-shootings/

  8. How is it possible for a guy missing an ear and a seriously scarred face to not be found within a few hours? I’m pretty sure I saw the earless dude within the past several months, and the only reason I remember that is because his appearance is rather shocking.

    I try not to think about it too much as to escape severe depression, but it’s insane that there are people out there freely roaming around who feel like randomly shooting bullets at passing cars is a really fun way to spend an evening out. At the very least, one of the two is a dangerous sociopath.

    I do wish a youth program would have diverted them out of their effed up path (and I’m more than willing to fund that), but some the above comments have a slight “blame the victim” tone to them (as if getting shot at is some sort of reasonable taxation for living in a flawed society).

  9. Murray is a racist, anyways. He openly participated on an all-white panel at a political conference organized by a racist lobbyist group last month (but the racists are pro-gay, so who cares)! Let’s elect a person of color for once.

    • Have you forgotten Norm Rice? Ron Sims? Ruby Chow? Bruce Harrel? Kshama Sawant? Gary Locke? Wink Luke? Cheryl Chow? Or did you just not know about them in the first place?