— Matt Powell (@mattpowdev) January 21, 2017
University of Washington Police are investigating after an anti-fascist protester was shot during ongoing fighting in the crowds that gathered on the campus Friday night. The shooter has been identified and released from custody pending the investigation.
“We’re spending a great deal of time sorting through video we have received from the public and others,” Major Steve Rittereiser of UWPD tells CHS. Rittereiser tells CHS the department’s detectives are identifying witnesses and setting up interviews, a process that will stretch out over the coming days. A vehicle in the case has also been impounded and is being examined for evidence.
“UWPD detectives are continuing to gather details surrounding the incident and will forward their investigation to the prosecuting attorney’s office,” the department said in a statement released Saturday. “UWPD detectives encourage anyone with information about the incident or who witnessed it should contact UWPD at 206-543-9331.”
Seattle Police detectives are currently not running the investigation, a department spokesperson tells CHS, standard operation procedure for a crime of this nature on the campus, the spokesperson said. Rittereiser said his department is utilizing SPD resources including a few experts in the kinds of evidence being worked with. UWPD has five detectives as part of its department.
Federal officers were also at the scene Friday night, Rittereiser said, with FBI agents part of the security team organized to support the campus during the protests.
UPDATE 1/24/17: UWPD said its decision to release the shooter from custody was made in consultation with prosecutors. A spokesperson for the King County Prosecutor’s office tells CHS the amount of time expected to be required to complete the preliminary investigation was likely to take longer than the man could legally be held. “Under state law, a person can only be held for 72 hours pending a charging decision. However, more time is needed for the ongoing investigation,” the spokesperson said. The spokesperson added that the case has not yet been referred to the office for consideration of charges.
Crowds of protesters including hundreds who crossed Capitol Hill earlier Friday night filled Red Square outside Kane Hall where right-wing extremist Milo Yiannopoulos appeared at an event inside as the Breitbart News editor continued a controversial national speaking tour. Police radio, media, and witness reports said there were also groups of counterprotesters and increasing scuffles, shoving, and threats were reported through the night.
Just before 8:30 PM, UW and Seattle Police in the square monitoring the protests rushed into the crowd to respond to the shooting:
Police received a report that a man in the crowd had been shot and worked to enter the crowd and extricate him. Officer removed the 32-year-old man from the crowd and found he had sustained a life-threatening gunshot wound to the abdomen. He was taken to Harborview Medical Center with life-threatening injuries.
The incident was caught on camera and can be seen in this video posted to Reddit over the weekend.
The victim’s injuries were potentially life-threatening but his condition has improved.
The anti-fascist group Industrial Workers of the World say the victim is a member of the organization and have led a $40,000+ plus fundraising campaign to cover the unidentified member’s medical bills and loss of income from missed work:
The victim is a 34-year-old man from Seattle who has been a long-time anti-racist and anti-fascist activist. The shooter has apparently claimed that he shot the victim in ’self-defense.’ The victim was unarmed and attempting to de-escalate conflict at the protest. We request that the press not identify the victim by name. The so-called ’alt-right’ is notorious for creating virtual mobs to harass those with whom they disagree. The press should resist unintentional collaboration with these tactics. We recognize the pressure for the media to get stories out early and first. We request that the media engage with the victim directly, when he is recovered sufficiently to do so. In the meantime, please refrain from repeating the shooter’s claim that the victim was a white supremacist, without qualifying it with our statement.
A person identified as an IWW spokesperson said none of the money raised will go to legal costs, if needed.
The UW fights and shooting formed a rare pocket of violence on a weekend where thousands marched and protested across Seattle. Other reports of criminal activity were limited.
According to SPD, a Bellevue Police Department vehicle suffered a rock through its windshield Friday morning around 9:30 AM while the officer “was assisting Seattle police in the Capitol Hill area.”
Later Friday, police and King County Sheriff vehicles could be seen parked inside the entrance to Capitol Hill Station. A Sound Transit spokesperson said the protective measure is allowed and offered up this rather opaque statement: “It’s an option in our contingency plan; security/the agency considers all factors and then decides, based on known factors, how each event should be handled.” Friday night, the gates of Capitol Hill Station were closed for just over 10 minutes as marchers passed up Broadway.
SPD also said it seized “wooden dowels, homemade shields, flares, hammers, and other items from masked individuals in the crowd” at Westlake before the UW violence Friday night. But there were no arrests. Similarly, Saturday’s Seattle Women’s March included an estimated 120,000+ marchers — and zero related arrests.
Police were also investigating reports of property damage and tagging around the Hill with messages related to the weekend’s protests, including this knuckleheaded attempt at pro-fascist provocation on North Capitol Hill reported on Saturday afternoon: