At a press conference on Monday Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best argued that "a life might have been saved" if only the cops could have tossed tear gas grenades to disperse protesters who confronted them early Saturday morning, when shootings sent two victims to the hospital, killing one 19-year-old and critically injuring a 33-year-old man.
Volunteers and medics at the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP) strongly disagree.
John Moore, the medic who treated the 19-year-old, Lorenzo Anderson, said the cops could "get fucking bent."
Moore said SPD's preferred crowd control weapons wouldn't have helped the situation, as volunteers had already driven Anderson to the hospital when police entered the zone with their hands on their guns and their shields raised. According to a police timeline of events, SPD body camera footage, and video from the scene, medics had moved the victim into a car en route to the hospital a couple minutes before the police phalanx walked by the medic tent.
Obi, the volunteer who transported the 33-year-old man to Harborview after police had already left their staging area on Broadway that evening, said gas would "absolutely not" have helped.
Moreover, Moore said he would have filed a lawsuit against the SPD for interfering with active medical care if police had gassed the crowd as he and other medics were performing CPR.
Moore added that he'd "hazard to say that no one could have saved" Anderson that night due to the severity of his wounds, though it wasn't for lack of trying. He told citizen journalist Omari Salisbury that CHOP medics transported Anderson to a rendezvous point they'd pre-arranged with the Seattle Fire Department shortly after the shooting, but no one was there to receive him when they showed up.
In a statement released Sunday evening, SFD confirmed the existence of "pre-designated patient collection points...just outside the boundaries of the designated area," but said their units didn't "leave the perimeter of the scene until we received a report from one of our medic units located at Harborview Medical Center that the two shooting victims had arrived via private vehicles."
Obi doesn't think the gas or blast balls would have helped much, either. "They were gassing us when Daniel Gregory was shot," she said, referring to the events on June 7, when SPD launched their longest and most aggressive gas attack on protesters hours after Nikolas Fernandez allegedly drove into a crowd of protesters, shot Gregory, and turned himself in to police.
"Cal Anderson and Capitol Hill have always been areas of gun violence. The addition of the CHAZ has not changed things," she added.
Obi said she was in the middle of the intersection at 11th and Pine when gunshots rang out Saturday morning. Medics called for a vehicle to evacuate the first victim, and she immediately offered her white van, which was parked around the corner on 12th and Pike. But by the time she'd made her way back to the medic station on the Rancho Bravo patio, she was told the victim would be taken in another car.
She was making her way back to 12th and Pike when she heard that SPD had arrived onsite and was "pulling guns on civilians," she said, so she started offering people rides offsite. Some took her up on the offer and piled in, and she drove to the barricade at 11th and Pike to offer the same assistance to a crowd gathered there. But as she was pulling away she heard a second round of gunshots. Shortly thereafter, medics called for another evacuation vehicle.
Obi asked her passengers if they had safe houses they could go to. They all told her they did and hopped out, she said.
After medics spent "a few moments" treating the 33-year-old man with a gunshot wound, they loaded him in her van and she and another passenger drove to Harborview. She said the man was "unconscious" but she could hear some noises he was making. Medics had told her that his breathing was slowing before she left.
Obi said she saw "multiple" squad cars and many cops as she backed into the emergency ramp at Harborview. As she was leaving the hospital, she said one police officer "aggressively motioned" for her to stop, which she said she did. He then "commanded" her to return to the scene of the shootings, discover if there'd been a third victim, and then return to the hospital with that information, which she said she didn't do.
"As someone who has been working a barricade for a week, and as a single woman walking around, the only threat I’ve felt has been outside the perimeter [of CHOP]," Obi said. "Every time I've had a safety issue, a fellow CHOP resident has helped me de-escalate the situation, and even when I was in the middle of the gunshots going off, the only true threat I felt was when I pulled up to Harborview and there were 30 armed cops waiting for us."
With their permission, Obi hopes to speak with the family of the man she transported to the hospital. "I love him. I’ll think about him for as long as I live. And I’m so sorry someone attempted to take his life, no matter what the intentions behind it were," she added.
Though Obi has been involved in Seattle protests "for a long time," after the shootings Saturday morning she says she's taking a little break to decompress and reassess her role in the CHOP.
With Mayor Jenny Durkan telling CHOP residents to "go home," Moore guessed that the area around the East Precinct will start looking less like an occupation and more like a confrontation between protesters and police, again.
He said medics will remain in the area, but they'll be unidentified and incognito to avoid being targeted by police. "You might not know we’re there, but we'll be there to take care of you," he said.