Speaking to reporters at the scene of tonight's shooting at a homeless encampment in Sodo, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray was asked about his personal reaction to the event. "I can't help but wonder," he said, "did I act too late?"
"Maybe I should have issued the state of emergency months earlier," Murray said, referring to his November declaration of a homelessness emergency. "It's on me in the end."
Murray was just 15 minutes away from delivering a special televised address on homelessness tonight when police received reports that five people were shot at the homeless encampment known as The Jungle near Airport Way and South Atlantic Street, according to authorities. Police have identified two "persons of interest" and are interviewing witnesses, but are not releasing names or descriptions.
Of the five victims, two died (
one man and one woman) and, as of about 10 pm, one victim was in critical but stable condition and the remaining two were in critical condition and in surgery, according to police. UPDATE: Seattle Police now say both victims who died were men. One woman remains in critical condition at Harborview Medical Center and one man and one woman are in serious condition, according to police.
The Seattle Times reports that the victims ranged in age from 25 to 45 and "had gunshot wounds to the chest, abdomen, and back."
Seattle Police say they believe the shooting "very targeted" and that all five victims were living in the encampment. Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O'Toole said the victims were targeted based on who they were, not only because they were homeless. O'Toole also said officers were checking in on nearby encampments, but that the department does not believe there's any immediate threat to other encampments.
Murray said tonight that the area known as The Jungle has been "unmanageable and out of control for almost two decades." He said his office, the office of King County Executive Dow Constantine, and the office of Governor Jay Inslee will over the next two days "launch an assessment" of the area to figure out how to "take control of this situation," but provided few specifics. He also said the encampment was slated for a controversial sweep tomorrow. That's the city's practice of clearing illegal homeless encampments, a practice Murray defended in his speech tonight.
In an odd choice of words, Murray cautioned against politicizing the event.
"This is a tragedy," Murray said. "This is not the time to go back into our individual camps and start firing at each other... It would be a travesty if some people use this tragedy to try to paint all homeless people as criminals."
Seattle Police are asking anyone with information about the shooting to call (206) 233-5000.