On Saturday, April 28, Tyree Eugene Lee Sr. became a statistic. Lee, a young black man from South Seattle, became the fifth homicide victim in Seattle since the beginning of 2007. Lee was shot in front of his fiancée's home near 26th Avenue and East Alder Street in Seattle's Central District, as he was getting ready to go to a nephew's birthday party.
The shooting received an obligatory mention on local TV and got a simultaneous blurb in the dailies. When Lee died later at Harborview Medical Center, his death was quietly mentioned in the press. Police were mum about the incident.
Poking his head through the front door of a small green house—juggling two telephone conversations while several young children ran through the living room—a close friend of Lee's was not keeping quiet. Dismayed by the lack of attention the murder received, Lee's friend, speaking on condition of anonymity, stated: "There's shootings every day and nobody says nothing about it." A young wide-eyed boy, probably not more than 5 years old, wandered out onto the porch; Lee's friend shooed him back inside, trying to shield him from the conversation. "He was the nicest guy you knew. He didn't beef with [anybody]," remembered Lee's friend, who says they raised and sold Staffordshire terriers together.
According to Seattle Police Department statistics through February, Seattle has only had one murder since the beginning of 2007, although by our count there have been at least three other homicides in the area. In 2006 there were 30 homicides, and in 2005 there were 25.
Just after 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, witnesses say a white SUV pulled up near Lee's fiancée's home, several blocks from Garfield High School, and the vehicle's occupants got into a confrontation with Lee. The passenger of the SUV stepped out of the car and shot Lee before returning to the vehicle and speeding away. According to the police report, officers arrived and found Lee "lying on the south planting strip of the 2600 block of East Alder" with "gunshots to the chest." Lee was transported to Harborview Medical Center in critical condition, where he died from his injuries.
Lee's friend claims that Lee was the victim of mistaken identity. He states that Lee's killers thought he was involved in another shooting in the area and that Lee's murder was retaliatory. Lee had also been involved in an argument with several other people at nearby Barnett Park earlier in the day. According to Lee's friend, a police officer who is "well-known in the area" told Lee's family that "they know who did it," and told them that Lee's killers had celebrated his death with a barbecue at a park in the area.
The SPD's gang unit was called to the scene on Saturday night, but SPD spokesman Sean Whitcomb said that the case is "actively being investigated" by the homicide unit. As of press time, no arrests had been made.
Lee leaves behind a 2-year-old daughter, a 5-year-old son, and a fiancée who is currently 8 months pregnant.