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Standoff reported in Cal Anderson after medical call becomes crime scene — UPDATE: Murder

(Image: Matt Mitgang)

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.

(Image: Matt Mitgang)

(Image: Matt Mitgang)

(Image: Matt Mitgang)

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.

UPDATE 9/17/2020 11:45 AM: SPD is not identifying the suspect found dead inside the pump station but people familiar with the camp have identified him as Travis Berge.

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.

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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43 thoughts on “Standoff reported in Cal Anderson after medical call becomes crime scene — UPDATE: Murder” -- All CHS Comments are held for moderation before publishing

  1. I wonder how many of the campers in the park can’t be housed because of domestic violence, felony warrants, etc. Using people’s suffering for political gain should be the real crime

      • The murderer/dead man has been identified as Travis Berge, the guy who’s been in the news many times before…. the guy who’s got multiple, multiple arrests for violent felonies, yet kept being released – the one who threw coffee on a toddler downtown, the same guy who’s sister pleaded for him to not be released because she was sure he’d end up dead…..

        Instead of being actually helped, this guy was empathized to death….

      • >> “He’s a bright guy, a talented
        >> musician,” says Berge’s mom who
        >> did not want her name to be used.
        >> “He has a lot of family that loves him.”

        >> Berge admits being a fan of meth
        >> and speed, which results in his
        >> arrests for things like spitting on
        >> police officers or breaking windows
        >> in downtown businesses.

        >> and “was not interested in mental
        >> health or substance abuse treatment.”

        Yup — I’d say in Mr Berge’s case, it *was* the individual’s fault.

      • Mea culpa – before anyone else points it out – I have realized that I mixed up Travis Berge with Fransisco Calderon – he’s the repeat offender who threw coffee on a toddler and who’s sister begged for him to be kept in custody….

        Travis is still a repeat offender (35+ arrests) and unapologetic meth/speed user who has repeatedly refused treatment…. Did the system fail him – indeed, but not but not in the way you think….. the ‘system’ offered this man opportunities that he refused to take and granted him plenty of freedom – that ultimately turned into the freedom to destroy several lives…. as far as I am concerned, this man’s death and the death of his girlfriend should forever be on the consciouses the prosecutor(s) who have repeatedly turned him back out onto the streets, with only a promise to attend treatment when he clearly demonstrated, more than once, that he is incapable of caring for himself or controlling his actions. You can bet the next time city and county prosecutor positions are up for a vote I will not be voting for the incumbents… they would be Pete Holmes and Dan Satterberg.

      • No, isoor, but there does need to be some long-term consequences for serious criminal behavior, as a deterrent to those who might want to commit crimes.

  2. Seattle’s experiment allowing people to camp out in public spaces needs to end. These squatters need to figure it out, get out, or get arrested.

    Our leadership has ceded this great city to low level criminality and made this environment unlivable for the 99% of us whom aren’t emotionally frail.

    Vilify the police, drive out investment, and tax the middle class out of middle classdom. The council invents new bad ideas at an alarming rate. Bravo, well done everybody.

  3. Why didn’t they send in a social worker to deal with this? Oh right, the ones that deal with psychopath murderers are hard to find. Or are we going to claim that the murder was caused by the popo?

  4. The next park waiting for a crisis is the one near Bakery Nouveau and Safeway. That has to be a health hazard with the garbage piling up for weeks on end.

    The city is ceding its parks to campers.

    • haha, so true. i both laugh and get angry every weekend morning driving by seeing the “progressive” neighbors line around the corner for over priced baked goods while bums are wallowing in filth, violence and degeneracy.

      • We must be related because I have seen those lines and people ingesting drugs mere feet away. What a sharp contrast. We have contacted the city but have had no response.

      • $10 for a dank fresh croissant BLT sandwich is not overpriced. It would cost much more to assemble a sandwich of that caliber piece by piece while taking a substantial quality cut #checkyofacts

      • I just don’t go to that wonderful bakery anymore. And the city will not do a thing. Look at Miller Park. It is increasingly a mess and so is the immediate surrounding arra. Has anyone else noticed the dramatic increase in graffiti around the park recently? I live nearby and was away for a few days and had a homeless guy sleeping/staying on my front porch. Last night there was this incident at Cal Anderson. Last week another guy who arrived in Seattle in July, and who accumulated three serious arrests/charges including spitting in an officer’s face and attacking someone with a machete (rapidly becoming the weapon of choice on Capitol Hill), killed two people after stealing a car from the Pike/Pine neighborhood. I mean, where else? Miller Park is headed in the same direction as Cal Anderson and the park at John Street. Give it a few more months.

      • The City’s current policy on homeless camps (basically hands-off) is very inconsistent. Why would they choose to clear Cal Anderson, yet leave this camp alone? It’s just as filthy and degenerate.

      • glenn, you got it and thank you, its a nuisance when i already work 40 hours a week and then have to clean up someone’s immature nonsense. i used to do facility maintenance at st marks and temple de hirsch sinai for years so its nothing new but its frustrating when its on your home. im sure it’ll all work out

      • Williams Place was the subject of a student redesign exercise at the UW. Is the City letting it deteriorate to justify redesigning it? More pavement, less green on the way?

      • Likely a product of higher taxes, socialized medicine, and social safety structure that Europe tends to provide to it’s citizens.

    • Park is named Williams Place. There was talk on the Miller/Stevens Nextdoor site of getting groups of neighbors together to help with the trash in the park (I’m struggling to find a term for discarded bottles, food, wrappers, etc that cannot be misconstrued to referring to the unfortunate people living there)

      • my building near miller park has been tagged 4 times in 2 weeks and ive had to clean it up (i stupidly became a resident manager without realizing miller park had become a camp thinking it would be better than over on summit ave)

      • Andee,

        You must manage the building at the corner of east thomas and 19th ave east? First of all, thank you for cleaning your graffitied garage doors so quickly. Too many property owners, as well as King County Metro and the city, lettheir graffiti linger. That is irresponsible. The only way too discourage it is to remove it….immediately. Thanks for being so on it, and sorry you didnt realize whay you were getting into.

  5. Wow, what a sad and horrifying story.

    These folks have families and lives. We can’t just throw people away like this – this isn’t freedom. We need to bring people inside, get them housed, and link them to appropriate services where warranted.

    Obviously DV incidents still happen to people who are housed, but living in the park can’t be helping.

    Peace to their friends and families.

      • I posted my comment before that update was made, but even more so it underlines my point. If we knew this was coming, why didn’t we do something? I have no delusions that the ‘do something’ would all be one big PSH fundraising campaign ad where people get the keys to their place, cry from happiness, and the screen fades to black. Though certainly that should be the first option, instead of a lottery win like it is today.

        Maybe he was always going to die or spend his life in jail or an institution. That’s the worst case scenario – that we would have aggressively intervened and it made no difference for him. But if we knew this guy was going off the rails we could have stopped him from harming others. Her family will probably sue and we deserve it.

      • So, clearly the water system was taken offline because the City feared something like this would happen.

        What does it say about the City that this is how they feel about our neighborhood yet they do nothing to improve conditions? They know it’s not safe but they ignore it. In fact, they promote it, by doing things like negotiating to institutionalize this in a remake of Cal Anderson.

        Also, what does this do to the water system long-term. We removed redundancy, I assume, increasing risk. This is irresponsible.

  6. If you email to homelessness@seattle.gov you’ll get a standard canned response that basically says the Navigation Crew (reponsible for sweeping and relocating the homeless) is suspended in Seattle right now. The city is admitting that they are not doing ANYTHING to deal with the homeless encampments that are building. No explanation of why, just that they’re letting it all go. Don’t believe me? Send them an email and complain. You’ll get the same canned response.

    in fact, please email them. Let them hear your voice.

    • Thank you. I just emailed the above address, echoing your comments and those of others here above. Even if it results in no immediate action, at least there is documented evidence that we residents are fed up.

    • Also Thank You LA, I also emailed. Have you filled out the customer service form- or is that just BS to make you think someone is actually paying attention/going to respond?

  7. I’m sure our councilmember will have a press release out soon on specific actions she’s developing in partnership with Seattle Parks and the SPD on to improve the safety of the Cal Anderson Park area for residents, and move unsheltered folks to more appropriate places to receive services.

    lol just kidding

  8. We as a city spend almost $80k per homeless person and this is what we get…I’m a 4th generation Seattleite, all you transplants, hipsters, and other undesirables can tell me nothing, except how you’ve ruined our city and still blame the natives. Go back home, if you have one.

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