[ORIGINAL POST, 4 PM]
At 4 pm, Mayor Ed Murray and Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O'Toole will provide an update with the latest details on last night's shooting at a Sodo homeless encampment. You can watch the update here.
The Seattle Times reports that the King County Medical Examiner’s Office has identified the two victims killed last night as James Q Tran, 33, and Jennine L Brooks, 45.
An unnamed witness tells the Times the shooting was related to drugs and money. The witness says he was sitting at a fire pit with "a man he called 'Fats,' whom he described as the primary target."
Then, he said, several “Samoan men wearing masks and leather” approached the encampment from the east. He said there were at least two men and perhaps as many as five.
“Fats told them to come around the front and they just started shooting like crazy,” the man said.
He said Fats, a woman known as Tracy, a blond woman, a heavyset woman and a man named James were shot. He said James and the heavyset woman were killed.
The witness said one of the gunmen pointed a handgun at him and said, “You got a (expletive) problem?” The witness replied, “No, I’m just an old man sitting by the fire and trying to get warm.”
He also said one woman, the blonde, may have been shot because she would not stop screaming once the gunfire erupted.
O'Toole has not yet been willing to talk about the suspects, but the Times reports that "a police source confirmed the suspects were described by witnesses as Samoan and that they are not believed to be homeless."
I'll update this post with any new details we learn at the 4 pm briefing.
[UPDATE, 5:20 PM]
At this afternoon's briefing, O'Toole confirmed the identities of the two shooting victims who died and said investigators "feel very strongly" the shooting was related to "low-level drug dealing." Police are looking for "at least two suspects—possibly more," O'Toole said, and they believe at least two guns were involved.
Seattle Fire Chief Harold Scoggins said an "assessment" of the encampment area where the shooting occurred, which is known as The Jungle, will begin tomorrow at 10 a.m. Scoggins said police, fire, public health, and human services staff will study the area to find out how many people are living there and whether there are public health or infrastructure dangers in the area. Scoggins said "this is not a sweep," promising the departments will "look at the resources it would actually take to support the people who live there."
In comments reiterating points made in his speech last night, the mayor repeated his call for state and federal funding to address homelessness in Seattle and dismissed the idea that the City of Seattle could be spending more.
"Seattle has done what we can do financially unless we're willing to step back from other programs we're committed to," Murray said. "We have no more money."
He also again dismissed criticisms about the city's cleanups of encampments, saying city staff offer connections to services to homeless people they kick out of large encampments.
Murray said it's "inhumane to leave people in places like the so-called Jungle," where they face safety and health risks, and called the debate over encampment sweeps "outdated."
In response to neighborhood claims that police are ignoring drug and property crimes committed by homeless people, O'Toole told reporters, "We're not going to criminalize homelessness."
"We're not going to criminalize addiction," she continued. "We're not going to criminalize mental health issues. But if people are committing crimes... we will enforce."