At 10:37 a.m. on the morning of November 22, as snow was beginning to blanket the city, police started getting calls about a gruesome tableau near 15th Avenue and East Union Street: One man was attacking another man, striking him in the head with something that looked like a pickax. The snow was turning red. Students at the nearby Seattle Academy of Arts and Sciences, some of whom had seen the attack commence, were being rushed to safety by teachers and administrators.
"Officers responded very quickly," said police department spokesperson Renee Witt. By 10:42 a.m., just five minutes after the first reports came in, they had in custody Michael LaRosa, 26, whom witnesses were able to identify as the attacker, according to Witt. Police also found the suspected weapon, which turned out to be a hatchet.
Dead on the ground lay a 58-year-old man who apparently rented a room in a nearby boarding house. A man who identified himself as Jean Claude, and who said he was one of the victim's roommates, told The Stranger that the victim got by on state disability payments and "was on his way to get some medicine at Seattle Mental Health" when he was murdered. "I don't know his personal issues," Jean Claude said. "I just know that he didn't deserve to be killed." He called his roommate "a beautiful person."
LaRosa, who was booked into jail on suspicion of murder and is being held without bail, is no stranger to the criminal justice system. He served time for assault and harassment earlier this year and on October 15 was released from jail after doing more time for violating a domestic-violence restraining order filed by his former girlfriend. "Michael is still having fits of anger in which he is verbally abusive and physically violent towards himself and my property," the former girlfriend wrote in February in documents attached to her request for the restraining order. That request had been granted on a temporary basis on February 10, and then two weeks later was formally extended until 2012. Attached to the extension of the restraining order was a poem that read in part: "I ruined your face, I ruined your face. I hit it with a bat and, blood went all over the place. I ruined your face, I ruined your face. I beat it with a bomb and, blew up your brains."
Court documents show that LaRosa had recently been accepted into a men's domestic-violence program and that his former girlfriend worried about what she described as his "rage" and violent threats against her. "I ended the relationship and he refused to leave," she wrote. "In Sept. 2009, he destroyed all my household including furniture, letters, and keepsakes... He used a knife on the couch and destroyed it."
It remains unclear whether LaRosa and the murdered man knew each other or why they came into contact on the morning of November 22. Police have not offered a suspected motive for the killing, and acquaintances of the victim could offer no theory as to why the alleged encounter with LaRosa began or why it would have ended in such chilling brutality.