Seattle Police filled Cal Anderson Wednesday night surrounding the Seattle Public Utilities pumphouse on the west side of the area where a suspect was reportedly holed up inside the fenced-off facility after a medical response in the park transitioned to a crime scene.
Seattle Fire was called to the park around 8 PM and a female was reported undergoing CPR as police were called to the scene. SPD summoned homicide detectives to the scene.
SFD reports its crews performed life saving efforts for an approximately 30-year-old woman who was in critical condition. SPD says the victim has died and that police are conducting an investigation. The death is considered suspicious but SPD could not yet provide further information. The woman was found near the SPU pumphouse.
UPDATE 10:25 PM: SPD says the situation is a homicide investigation and there is a barricade standoff with the suspect underway in the park.
UPDATE 9/17/2020 6:30 AM: SPD reports that the suspect has been found dead inside the building he was barricaded in:
SWAT officers used a variety of tools and techniques to get the man to surrender peacefully. He refused to come out of the building. At approximately 12:30 AM, SWAT entered the building and located the man unresponsive inside at the bottom of a 10 foot tank, which contained approximately 50 gallons of 12 percent bleach solution. The man was declared deceased at the scene. Seattle Fire responded back to the scene with a HAZMAT crew to assess the scene and assist the Medical Examiner with the body recovery. The recovery was processed and documented by Crime Scene Investigators and Force Investigation Team detectives. The Medical Examiner will determine the cause and manner of death.
Police were surrounding the pumphouse in a barricade situation with a suspect they reported via East Precinct radio updates was armed with with pepper spray and a taser inside.
Officers formed a large perimeter with protesters at the scene and also closed down streets around the park to traffic during the incident.
A person familiar with the situation said the man and woman knew each other and both were well known to campers and volunteers around the park. Police say they had “a domestic relationship” and had been camping in the park.
Police are asking anyone with information to contact the Seattle Police Department Violent Crimes tip line at (206) 233-5000.
Cal Anderson has remained busy though officially closed to the public as activists have continued their efforts to establish a mutual aid facility in the park for the area’s homeless community even after repeated sweeps by the city and SPD.
The park’s pumphouse near the basketball court just off Nagle has been fenced-off and welded shut to keep out trespassers during the weeks of protest camps in the park.
The SPU facility is part of a large reservoir beneath Cal Anderson with two 6.25 million gallon vaults. There has been a reservoir at the site for more than 100 years. After the state mandated that Seattle’s open water sources needed to be covered in the early 1990s, community groups helped lead an effort to cap the reservoir with a park. UPDATE: “The storage tank at Seattle Public Utilities’ (SPU) water pump station at Cal Anderson Park was taken offline several weeks ago and not operational during last night’s incident,” a statement from the department sent to CHS reads. “The City’s drinking water remains safe and there are no impacts to SPU’s water operations.”
SPU is currently assessing damage to the building and its contents, making immediate repairs where possible and planning for any long-term repairs. The storage tank was taken out of service several weeks ago and therefore not operational at the time of the incident. There is no impact to SPU’s water operations. SPU will be reviewing safety measures.
CHS is not identifying the woman killed until we can confirm her identity with authorities after the family notification process is complete.
Berge had been living on the streets around Capitol Hill since at least 2015 and has a lengthy criminal record including convictions on several felonies. His most recent felony case involved more than $5,000 in damage to window panes at the King County Jail Community Center for Alternative Programs. At the time, prosecutors said he had been jailed in King County 47 times since 2013 and “was not interested in mental health or substance abuse treatment.”
Berge had become a symbol for law and order advocates in Seattle and the “Seattle is Dying” cause after he was featured in the early 2019 KOMO news reports focused on repeat offenders in the city. Berge had become a regular character for local TV news. “He’s become a symbol of how Seattle and King County handle homeless habitual offenders,” KOMO reported on Berge last June. CHS first met Berge in January of 2015 as we reported on the coming demolition and redevelopment of the Piecora’s property along E Madison. Berge, who identified himself as Traveltron, had set up a sprawling, junk-filled camp next to the old building.
A man named Travis is in a tree within the East Precinct fence line. Police have locked down the block. Fire also on scene pic.twitter.com/m5KCiD3qxZ
— matt (@mmitgang) August 16, 2020
During CHOP, Berge, like many homeless and under-housed people in the area, was attracted to the growing camp around Cal Anderson and became part of the scene around the ongoing protest. As the protest zone was cleared and tensions in the area transitioned to a series of sweeps and arrests of the campers and activists trying to create a mutual aid facility in the park for the homeless community, Berge’s actions ramped up. When a “man in a tree” standoff started outside the East Precinct, it was Berge in the center of the melee.
A person familiar with the happenings around the camp and volunteer effort in Cal Anderson tells CHS that Berge suffered an injury in recent days and his actions had become increasingly concerning.
Police say the investigation of the killing and Berge’s death continues.
UPDATE 9/17/2020 4:10 PM: Seattle Parks provided a brief statement on the situation at Cal Anderson following Wednesday night’s murder-suicide.
“As SPD concluded their onsite investigation, they determined there was no longer a threat to public safety at the park,” a parks spokesperson says, adding Cal Anderson “remains closed” and “Park Ambassadors are on site daily.”
Thursday morning, parks workers were in Cal Anderson to re-secure the bathroom after a break-in earlier in the week. The facilities have been locked down since a recent sweep of the park’s campers — now a regularly occurring event in Cal Anderson.
The parks rep says workers with the Navigation Team “continue to provide outreach to those who are unhoused within and surrounding the park.”
We’ve received no response to questions about the situation from the Human Services Department.
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