At about 3:30 Saturday morning, as the rave at Capitol Hill Arts Center (CHAC) was winding down, the young people who lived at 2112 East Republican Street scanned the dance floor for people they could invite to their afterparty. They made a habit of welcoming strangers—it's how they had all met one another in the first place. They had almost finished with the invitations when Jeremy Martin, 26, spotted a hulking, solitary figure.
"Go ask him," Jeremy said to his best friend, Anthony Moulton.
Another person who lived at the home, 24-year-old Jesiah Martin (no relation to Jeremy), remembers having seen the man that night—conspicuous not just for his 6'5" 280-pound frame but for the fact that he wasn't dressed up or dancing. "He was by himself mostly, fly on the wall style," said Jesiah.
Anthony, who is disarmingly goofy in the way of most in their group, approached the man and said, "Do you know the difference between Scotch and beer?" Most at the party were drinking beer, but Anthony handed the man a flask full of Macallan. The man took a swig and grimaced. But he liked it. He even smiled, leading Anthony to say, "Hey, what are you doing after this? We have half a keg at our place…"
And that is how Kyle Huff came to visit the house on East Republican Street.
A day after the rampage, we are sitting in a bedroom at a house in the Eastlake neighborhood where most of the people who lived in the home on East Republican Street have taken refuge. Jesiah, with disheveled dirty blond hair, lies on the bed with Chavon, who seems weary with grief. As they talk, Anthony and his girlfriend take turns burying their faces into each other's shoulders. Ian Gill, their roommate, is at a desk behind a computer. Others are sitting Indian style around the bed. We want to know the details of that night, if it's not too hard to speak of.
"It's okay," says Jesiah, and then he adds, "I'm still in shock."
There had been no plan to party last Friday night. The guys who lived at the house had had an awful night six days earlier, when a DJ dance party the roommates had hosted at a warehouse space near Seattle University was raided by Seattle police, who confiscated their cash box and every unopened bottle of liquor. They'd lost a lot of money, and their inclination was to lay low that weekend.
But they were friends with Annika Anderson, the promoter who was throwing the "Better Off Undead" dance party at CHAC on 12th Avenue. She offered them free wristbands, and besides, the group jumps at most opportunities to don theatrical makeup. Attendees were invited to dress up in their most macabre zombie outfit. "People started showing up and a lot of people weren't as dressed up as they should have been," says Anthony. "But we're professionals. We wanted to get our zombie on." They applied face paint and fake blood, then headed for CHAC.
The zombie theme notwithstanding, there was nothing violent, no sign of conflict at the party. "It was totally mellow," says Kneil, a 16-year-old who asked that we not use his last name. He lives in the suburbs, and it was his first Seattle rave. "There was not even shouting or anything. It was perfect."
Kneil was invited to attend the afterparty. His girlfriend was tired, wanted to go home, but Kneil's friend Kian, who he'd only met the previous week, was going. So was one raver he knew as Deacon, whose real name was Christopher Williamson, who was 21, and one who called himself Sushi, whose real name was Justin Schwartz, and who was 22. Kian drove Kneil and his girlfriend to the house on Republican.
"It was just a chill-down mode from the rave, because everyone there had so much fun," says Kneil. He sat on the couch and watched TV, then ventured upstairs to hang out with his girlfriend and another friend. There were about 25 people in the house. Kneil only vaguely remembers the big quiet man sitting in the living room.
Kyle Huff was wearing a green long-sleeve sweatshirt, blue jeans, black shoes, a hemp bracelet, and a crystal necklace. He was the most conventional looking among them. He tossed in a few bucks for beer, like everyone else. One of them smoked a bowl with him. "He was kind of smiling a bit," said Jesiah. "He wasn't having a bad time."
But he wasn't really blending in either. "I kind of thought he was a cop, because he was so straight," said Anthony. He said so to Jesiah, who told Anthony he was being paranoid.
"I kept my eye on him," said Chavon, a 21-year-old who asked that we not print her last name. "I went up and talked to him because I wanted to make him feel welcome." She says that at one point or another, nearly everyone talked with Kyle. No one argued with him.
The sun rose at 6:03 a.m. and though the music was still playing, the partiers had become lethargic. The revelers drifted upstairs to fall asleep on beds or couches, or they lounged in the living room, sipped flat beer on the porch, or smoked pot in the basement.
Kneil's girlfriend didn't feel well, and so around 6:30 a.m. he left with her. His friend Kian stayed.
No one remembers Kyle walking out the door.
Anthony was in the basement with three others, smoking pot, when he heard the first gunshots. Jesiah was in the kitchen on his computer. It was exactly 7:00 a.m.
Jesiah saw flashes from the gun barrel through the blinds. He and his housemate Ian Gill, along with other partygoers, ran out the backdoor.
Anthony dashed upstairs and peeked around a corner toward the front door. One of the partiers was walking through the door, his face strangely calm, but his torso bloodied. He said, "I've been shot" and he collapsed. Briefly, Anthony saw Jeremy, who was also on the porch. Then Anthony saw a muzzle flash, which might have been the shot that killed his best friend. He dashed back down the basement steps with three other partygoers.
The front door had been open, and the people in the living room jumped up to slam it shut. But a fallen body—someone's legs—were in the doorway, and it wouldn't shut. Kyle pushed his way in. He was firing with a pistol-grip 12-gauge shotgun. He killed three in the living room. People in the basement searched desperately for hiding places. Others squeezed through windows to escape.
Upstairs, Chavon woke to what she thought were fireworks, but when she heard the first scream she knew they weren't. Between the gunshots she heard a voice say, "I have enough caps to kill all you fools."
Chavon heard Kyle's feet heavy on the stairs. She hid first behind the dresser, then behind a couch. She heard him reloading his gun. He entered the room. "I was kissing my ass goodbye," she says. "If he had taken one more step he would have seen me." But he didn't.
Across the hall, Jeremy's girlfriend, Erin, had fallen asleep on a messy bed—so messy, in fact, that when Kyle came in he didn't see her in the pile of sheets and blankets. He moved on. A couple had locked themselves in the bathroom and were lying in the tub when they heard Kyle's hand on the door. Not being able to open it, he fired a shot through the door. Neither of the people in the bathroom was hit.
From his right side Kyle pulled a semi-automatic pistol. The absence of screams and gunshots created an eerie silence, and everyone who was in the house hiding could hear Kyle's every move. "I heard the reloading, the drop of the clip, the cocking, and then the other clip," says Anthony. "I knew he was reloading, and I thought, 'Oh God.'"
Downstairs, a song was playing that the group referred to, only half-seriously, as their anthem: "Cripple Fight." Some dialogue from the cartoon series South Park had been mixed with electronic beats. As he passed through the living room, Kyle stopped to turn up the volume.
Kyle, apparently thinking the house was empty, went outside. Kian and another man had been hiding behind the bushes in front of the home. Cesar Clemente, 25, who lives across the street at Republican and 21st Street, spotted them, and he could see Kyle, shotgun in hand. Kian and the other man had both been shot but they were conscious. Clemente motioned for the two to run to his house. As he did, the other man fell. Clemente saw him try to get up, but the man collapsed again. Kian, who had been shot through the arm and the side of his abdomen, kept running, collapsing on Clemente's steps, out of Kyle's view.
"I can't think right now," said Kian. "I can't feel my arms." He was still wearing the blinking gloves he'd worn to the rave and he asked Clemente to take them off, but Clemente worried about evidence, and he refused. Kian's wounds did not appear to be life threatening, and Clemente said that the pellet that penetrated Kian's side fell out on its own.
When Jesiah ran out of the house he dialed 911 on his cell phone. But Seattle Police Officer Steve Leonard happened to be just around the corner, and he responded at the first sounds of gunfire. Jesiah saw Officer Leonard looking around and waved him down.
Jesiah doesn't remember hearing the shot, but he remembers seeing the guy who was with Kian fall in front of the blue house. "What's wrong with him?" called Officer Leonard. Jesiah bent down to help. The guy was wearing a hooded sweatshirt, and there were no signs of a bullet wound. But when Jesiah unzipped it, he saw the blood and pellet shot on the guy's chest.
Jesiah was still next to the house when he realized Kyle was walking down the porch steps. Leonard, who had drawn his gun, yelled out, "Drop your—" but before he could finish, Kyle had put the barrel of the shotgun into his mouth and pulled the trigger.
There were a few silent moments before the whole 2100 block of East Republican erupted in the lights of emergency vehicles. Police stormed into the home. Everyone who had been hiding in the house emerged from their hiding places with police weapons pointed at them now.
Five people lay dead, and two more would die in the hospital. Everything happened in the space of a few minutes.
The survivors all huddled outside in blankets. A neighbor, Charles Jackson, who dashed outside midway through the rampage, was there, handing out mugs of coffee. Soon, the television media converged. As they waited on the curb, the survivors held their middle fingers aloft at the intrusion. It worked: The footage never aired.
Mark, a member of the group who had been in the living room and witnessed more carnage than any other survivor, was still too shaken up the day after the shooting to talk about it. His friends say he keeps "reliving it." He is haunted by the expression he saw on Kyle's face—or the lack of one. Kyle Huff was, said Mark, "like a robot."
Though he left a half-hour before the shooting rampage began, Kneil is haunted, too—if not by memories then by imagining himself at the scene. "I was sitting on the couch right when you enter the door," he says. "That would have been the end."
Kneil is saddened most by the deaths of the guys he knew only as Deacon and Sushi. "These guys were all about dancing and music and having fun," says Kneil. "They didn't deserve to die like this."
Jeremy Martin was a clown—figuratively, and often literally. His friends scrolled through a computer file of pictures, at least half of which show him in clown dress—the caked-on makeup blending ridiculously with the coils in his mutton chops. "Ronald McFondle" was one of his characters. "He made everybody laugh," says Yvette Soler, a promoter and friend of the group who is sure she'd have been in the house that night had she not been in Miami at a music conference. She remembers the home as a "sanctuary."
While driving the VW van that he kept running only through hours of weekend tinkering, Jeremy liked to honk and wave at strangers. Baffled drivers and pedestrians would say, "Do I know you?"
Jeremy's friends had recently convinced him, a musician and a punk-rock snob, to open his mind to electronic music. His rule was that the really good stuff didn't require chemical enhancements to appreciate. He was a perfectionist, and even though his friends begged him to play his music publicly, he insisted on tinkering. He played guitar, he once played tuba with the Violent Femmes, and was a DJ who started with house music and had moved more recently into downtempo. The survivors want to throw a memorial party in which they play only his music. They just need to get his computer back from the house.
Chavon remembers Suzanne Thorne, who was only 15: "She had a Mohawk. Her face was really pretty. I said, 'That's so cool. I'm so going to shave my head now.'" The others can't forget how in the minutes after Kyle's suicide, Suzanne's boyfriend was outside the house looking for her.
Jason Travers had arrived back in Seattle only the day before. The residents of the home had known him for a few years. He was a clerk at Madison Market, where he'd met Jeremy, who had been the market's wine purchaser before landing his most recent job as a salesman for a wine distributor. "He would have never hurt a fly," said Anthony, of Jason. "Super-sweet, super gentle," is how Jesiah describes him.
Melissa Moore was, at 14, the youngest to perish. Her identity has only recently been confirmed, and very little is known about her.
It's a natural human impulse to try to make sense of what happened that Saturday morning. Kyle Huff left only one clue: On his way to the rampage, he spray-painted in orange the word "NOW" on the steps of a neighboring house, and on the sidewalk. This only leads to more questions, especially "Why?" Even after police questioned Kyle's twin brother, Kane, it appears there is no clear answer.
"It's something that seems not to have any sense to make," says Anthony. "It's like staring deep into the darkest space in the universe."
It's 1:30 in the morning, and we've been speaking for three hours. Jesiah's face seems set in wax. "I haven't broken down yet," he says. "I kind of wish I would."
Ian Gill, 33, is the eldest in their group. He ran from the kitchen far enough into the backyard not to encounter Kyle a second time. "You can't understand that mindset," he says. "How can you figure out what leads to that? What makes that the only option?"
The electronic-music and rave community has rallied around the survivors—the Eastlake home where they've taken refuge is filled with donated food. And the survivors, in turn, seem cognizant of a new responsibility thrust upon them: to defend the rave scene against those who would blame it for this senseless act of violence.
"It bothers me that there appears to be a connection being made [in the media] between the event and what happened at the house," says Jesiah. "But he [Kyle] wasn't a raver."