Gunfire Erupts in Homeless Encampment During Mayor's Homeless Crisis Speech

Murray's call for compassion toward homeless underscored by deaths.

Last night five homeless residents of "the Jungle" beneath the I-5 freeway were shot. Two died.

From the Blotter:

Two people were killed and three others were wounded Tuesday evening following a shooting in a wooded area east of Airport Way and S Atlantic Street. Two men were killed in the incident and one woman remains in critical condition at Harborview Medical Center. One man and a woman are also in serious condition.

Around 7:15 PM, police received reports of gunfire near the 1500 block Airport Way South.
Officers began searching a greenbelt in the area–sometimes colloquially referred to as “The Jungle”–and found the five victims.

Police are actively searching the woods for the suspect or suspects and piecing together information about the incident. Police are asking anyone with any information about the case to call SPD’s Violent Crimes tip line at (206) 233-5000.

Update: Here's video of Mayor Ed Murray's comments to reporters after last night's shooting at the Jungle.

The shooting occurred, like an tragic exclamation point, during an earnest speech by Mayor Ed Murray concerning Seattle's response to its growing homelessness crisis. Murray emphasized that causes of the crisis lie in national trends like heroin addiction (which we covered previously) and state and federal defunding of mental health and welfare programs. He also referred to the violence encampers face.

Murray spoke to reporters at the scene of the shooting.

"We are in the midst of a homeless crisis the like that we have not seen since the Great Depression," he said. "The executive order was not a gimmick. It was an actual plea that Seattle by ourselves cannot deal with this crisis."

Murray called the Jungle "unmanageable and out of control for nearly two decades," and said that he and the governor and county executive have agreed to carry out an "assessment" on the Jungle over the next 48 hours. He said that the area where the shooting occurred had been scheduled for cleanup today, one day after the shooting. (This isn't the first time during Murray's administration a constituent has died just before city policies took effect that would have saved them.)

"The causes of homelessness are complex," he said. "There is no simple answer. And this is not the time to go back into our individual camps and start firing at each other. This is a time for us together, again, to try and solve this crisis in this city.

"I think it would be a travesty if some people used this tragedy to try and paint all homeless people as criminals," he said.

Asked if this could have happened in a regulated encampment, Murray replied, "We have no crime in regulated encampments."

Asked what he'd thought when he learned of the shooting, Murray said, "I can't help but wonder, Did I act too late?...Obviously I'm going to question, Was I good enough at my job?"

Police Chief Kathleen O'Toole said SPD was looking for suspects/persons of interest but had no reason to believe other encampments are in danger.

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