Mayor Ed Murray at a city hall press conference this afternoon.
  • Seattle Channel
  • Mayor Ed Murray at a city hall press conference this afternoon.

"Gun violence is happening everywhere, and it impacts everyone," Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said at a press conference at city hall this afternoon. He was flanked by Seattle City Council President Tim Burgess and Seattle Police Department leadership, and backed by a large number of community members impacted by a week that began with a double homicide in the Central District and ended with a mass shooting at Seattle Pacific University. The violence, he said, was not unique to Seattle, but part of a national "epidemic" that he called "senseless."

Yesterday, Murray said, he found himself heading from the scene of the SPU shooting to a vigil for Dwone Anderson-Young, 23, and Ahmed Said, 27, the two young gay men who were shot on Sunday after a night out on Capitol Hill. The motive in their killings is still unclear, and investigators are still pursuing leads and looking for one suspect, Ali Muhammed Brown. But Mayor Murray described being at their vigil and hearing something heartening. "Dwone’s mother talked about how proud she was of her son, who was a University of Washington graduate, who was interested in computers. She also talked about how proud she was of him being gay.” After that, Murray said, Dwone's mother hugged the mother of Ahmed Said.

"Two vigils at the same time," Council President Burgess added, "are two vigils too many." He said he's never before had to choose between two vigils for shootings deaths in Seattle on the same night.

The fact that Burgess and Murray decided to leave SPU, where the media glare was brightest on Thursday, and go to the vigil in the Central District—which, on a busy news day, ended up getting little media attention—was a clear message. So was Murray's decision to convene a special meeting of the city council in the coming weeks to address gun violence, and his endorsement of Initiative 594 as necessary—and yet not nearly sufficient to the challenge.

"I think we’re reaching a point in this nation where we must find a solution," Murray said. "We have no choice... So far we have made almost no steps in this state toward responsible gun ownership." The initiative, which would close loopholes in the state's background check laws, is in Murray's view just "a small step toward a more rational conversation."

He continued: “If we don’t start to change the laws in this state, and in this country, about who owns a gun, and how many guns are out there illegally, then the sort of tragedy we’ve seen this week, with three deaths, will not change."

Murray said the student who died in the shooting at Seattle Pacific University was Paul Lee, "a Korean-American with a bright future ahead of him." Three other students were wounded, one very seriously.

Speaking of all three of the week's gun-violence deaths—Lee, Anderson-Young, and Said—Murray said: "We stand here, and they are dead. We also stand here because there are stories about how things could have been worse."

He and police detectives then added a few details to what happened at SPU yesterday.

They said the alleged shooter, Aaron Ybarra, was carrying a shotgun that he had legally obtained several years earlier. (Police officials were asked whether Ybarra's reported involuntarily commitments might have meant that, under state law, he'd lost his right to have the weapon. They didn't have an answer.) The mayor also praised the heroism of the SPU student who reportedly pepper-sprayed Ybarra as he was allegedly reloading his shotgun, and said there were other heroes involved in the SPU response, too. Police still don't know how many shots were fired.

As for Ybarra's motive, "We're not sure what that is yet," said Seattle Police Captain Chris Fowler, declining to confirm reports that Ybarra was obsessed with Columbine and reminding reporters that investigations like this usually take many twists and turns.

There will be more updates in the coming days, officials promised, but for now Mayor Murray remarked on how steps to prevent gun violence can be as simple as modifying "our built environment" (after Sunday's shootings in the Central District, city workers quickly trimmed trees that were blocking city streetlights in the area) and as complicated as changing the culture. He also quoted Aeschylus:

Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget
falls drop by drop upon the heart,
until, in our own despair,
against our will,
comes wisdom
through the awful grace of God.