In one of the bloodiest scenes in city history, a North Seattle man identified as Kyle Huff shot and killed six young people at a party Saturday morning, March 25, on Capitol Hill, then killed himself.
Huff’s motives remain the biggest mystery in the case. Sources who attended the ill-fated party at a small blue rental house in the 2100 block of East Republican Street say they had only just met Huff hours before.
On Friday night, prior to the early-morning afterparty, Huff had attended the all-ages “Better Off Undead” DJ dance night at the Capitol Hill Arts Center (CHAC) on 12th Avenue. In an unsettling bit of irony, the show was a zombie-themed costume night featuring theater blood and ghoulish costumes with girls dressed, for example, as “brides of death.” About 275 youngsters, mostly in their late teens, showed up. CHAC artistic director Matthew Kwatinetz—who worked at the event—reports there were 19 staff security guards on hand for the party, which went until 4:00 a.m. Kwatinetz says it was a mellow scene with lots of “cuddle puddles” (a raver term for kids cuddling on the floor).
Residents of the house on East Republican Street invited most of the partygoers they encountered to join them for an afterparty as the CHAC event emptied out.
Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske says some partygoers used alcohol and drugs, but that it remained unclear whether those substances had any role in the crime.
The shooter was described as “quiet” and “humble” by partygoers interviewed by police on Saturday after the shooting.
On Saturday night, police served a search warrant at the Town and Country Apartments on the 12300 block of Roosevelt Way Northeast—a middle-income, 83-unit complex of buildings where Huff, 28, lived with his twin brother, Kane. Kane was taken in for questioning and was then released.
Regina Gray, 61, who helps manage the apartment complex, told The Stranger that the Huff brothers moved into their shared two-bedroom unit about four and a half years ago, after moving to Seattle from Montana. (They lived in Whitefish, Montana, where, the Seattle Times reported, Kyle Huff was briefly booked into jail after an incident in which he used a shotgun to “blow up” a sculpture of a moose that was part of a local art center fundraiser.)
“They were identical twins,” Gray says, “nice, big, husky guys,” each about 6 foot 4 inches, weighing around 250 pounds, both often sporting closely trimmed beards.
“We used to call them the 'teddy bear twins',” Gray adds. “That was my nickname for them. They were just sweet guys. They would carry up groceries for tenants. If a car broke down they would try to help.”
The Huff brothers shared a black pickup truck like the one found at the murder scene on Capitol Hill, Gray says, and they also shared a love of hunting.
“They talked about hunting and target practice back in Montana,” she says. Gray never saw the brothers with guns, but says her son-in-law once saw one of the Huff twins carrying a crossbow. The son-in-law asked about it, and the twin told him the crossbow was “just for fun.”
Gray says the brothers looked so much alike that she had trouble telling them apart, even though she chatted with them repeatedly over the past four and a half years. The twins, she says, would go to Capitol Hill from time to time to hang out, and one of them (Kyle, the Seattle Times reports) recently worked as a delivery person for Pizza Hut. According to the Times, he hadn’t worked there for about two months. Gray reports that Kyle Huff attended North Seattle Community College, and previously attended the Art Institute of Seattle.
Shortly before 7:00 on Saturday morning, Huff left the afterparty. There was no evidence of an argument, police say.
He returned about 10 minutes later. On his way back to the site of the party, he spray-painted the word “NOW” in orange on the sidewalk and steps of neighboring homes. As he approached the steps of the house where the party had taken place, he raised a pistol-grip 12-gauge shotgun.
People were standing on the porch of the house and the man fired at them, killing two. Those who were inside tried to close the door, but the suspect, identified as Kyle Huff, reportedly forced it open. He killed three people in the living room “execution style,” according to Kerlikowske.
The shooter, who was also armed with a semi-automatic handgun and two bandoliers of ammunition, then went upstairs to look for other partygoers, some of whom were crawling out of windows. Two people locked themselves in the bathroom and the shooter fired a round through the door but did not hit them.
“Everything the witnesses have told us indicates that this suspect walked into the house shooting and didn’t stop shooting,” SPD spokesman Sean Whitcomb says.
Cesar Clemente, who lives across the street from the shooting, phoned police and then went outside, where he saw two partygoers hiding behind a bush. One of them ran to Clemente’s home. The partygoer had been shot in the side of the abdomen and in the arm. Clemente remembers the victim saying, “I can’t think right now. I can’t feel my arms.”
SPD officer Steve Leonard happened to be within a block of the home, and when he arrived a victim ran toward his squad car. The officer told the victim to lie down and then the shooter came out of the house. The officer drew his gun and said, “Drop your—”. But before he could finish his sentence, the man, now identified as Kyle Huff, put the gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger.
“We have absolutely no idea what the motive was,” Kerlikowske says. “It’s not like there was a lot of conversation.”
The shooter fired “dozens” of rounds, according to Kerlikowske. In Huff’s truck, the police found a massive arsenal of ammunition and weapons, which included several hundred rounds of rifle, shotgun, and handgun ammo; several banana clips loaded with more rifle ammo; a rifle; and a machete. “The amount of ammo this suspect had—the arsenal of weaponry that he had—is cause for serious concern,” Whitcomb says.
“He didn’t show a lot of emotion,” Kerlikowske says. “There was no argument or fight that led to this.”
The victims range in age from teens to early 20s. According to their families, Jeremy Martin, 26, and Christopher Williamson, 21, were among the victims.
CHAC’s Kwatinetz reports that one of his friends was among the victims. “A friend of mine got killed,” he says. “We’re not talking to the press anymore. That’s it.”
Two more victims remain at Harborview Medical Center. One has what a police spokeswoman described as “life-threatening injuries,” while the other is conscious and has been interviewed by police.
A partygoer who asked that we identify him only by his rave name, “Superman,” says he believes the person who took refuge in the Clemente home was a friend named Kian. Harborview has not released the identities of the two victims who remain hospitalized.
The King County Medical Examiner’s Office is unlikely to release the names of the shooter or the other victims until Monday.
Eli Sanders, Megan Seling, Erica C. Barnett, Brendan Kiley, and Josh Feit contributed to this story.