Despite a deadly start that had Seattle police homicide detectives investigating a killing a week for the first couple of months in 2012, the year's total of 26 homicides was average.
Faced with an unusually high number of homicides over a relatively short period of time earlier this year, Seattle police held a news conference in May to decry the deaths due to firearms.
The next day, things got worse.
On May 30, Ian Stawicki walked into the Café Racer coffee shop in the University District and gunned down five people, killing four. The 40-year-old Stawicki then made his way downtown, where he killed a woman in a parking lot before stealing her car.
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The city’s single deadliest day of 2012 ended a short time later when Stawicki killed himself in West Seattle while surrounded by police.
By the time the year was half over, Seattle police had investigated 22 homicides, one more than in all of 2011.
“We had four in January, four in February, three in March and April and then eight in May,” Seattle Assistant Police Chief Jim Pugel said last week. “When you deal with all the survivors, the family, the children, the loved ones, even having just one is terrible. But having that many, clustered so tightly, was of great concern.”
Amid the spate of violence, police were quick to point out that homicide rates can inexplicably spike and then drop off. And that’s what happened this year.
After Stawicki’s rampage, Seattle homicide detectives responded to four more killings. With three days left in the year, Seattle homicides are at 26, the same number the city has averaged over the past 10 years.
Over the past decade, Seattle’s lowest total of homicides was 19 in 2010; the highest was 32 in 2003.
The city’s highest recorded yearly homicide total was 69 in 1994.
Of the 26 homicide victims in 2012, all but three were killed with firearms.
Two were killed with knives and one person, 51-year-old Greggette Guy, of Kent, whose body was found in Puget Sound off West Seattle, died of a neck wound and asphyxia due to drowning.
All of the victims were adults and none of the deaths was attributed to domestic violence.
Included in this year’s count is the death of Henry Lee Sr., who was fatally shot by Seattle police at his home Sept. 23.
Police say Lee, 77, pointed a handgun at three officers who responded to a 911 call he reportedly placed after hearing noises outside his home. An inquest has been ordered into the shooting.
According to police, eight of 2012’s homicides remain unsolved, including Guy’s slaying..
Other unsolved homicides include:
… Gregory Anderson, 25, a sailor stationed on the USS Nimitz, who was shot and killed Feb. 5 outside of the Club Republiq on First Avenue South where he was celebrating with friends his promotion to third-class petty officer.
• Nicole Westbrook, a 21-year-old culinary student who had just moved from New Mexico, was randomly killed during a drive-by shooting as she walked with her boyfriend in Pioneer Square on April 22.
The fact that many, such as Westbrook and the Café Racer victims, were in the wrong place at the wrong time added to the public’s fear.
One such case was the May 24 killing of Justin Ferrari, a 43-year-old software engineer shot as he drove through an intersection in the Central Area with his children and parents. Police say the suspect was firing at someone else when Ferrari was fatally wounded.
A 20-year-old Federal Way man, Jermain Patterson, was arrested nearly two months later and has been charged with second-degree murder.
In response to the homicides, Assistant Chief Pugel said police altered their strategy, bringing in extra officers and reassigning others and redirecting the SWAT, gang and robbery units.
“We worked with (the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) and they showed us where the hot spots in our city were, and we took those extra officers and concentrated on those areas,” Pugel said.
“We also worked with the Gang and Robbery units to go after known shooters and get them off the street,” Pugel said
He said that police cannot take all the credit, or all the blame, when crime goes up or down.
“It’s almost impossible to prevent someone like Ian Stawicki, who had never shown up on the radar before,” he said.
In addition, the work of medics and the “magicians” at Harborview Medical Center surely prevented many injured people from becoming homicide victims, he said.
Christine Clarridge: 206-464-8983 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Seattle Times news researchers Miyoko Wolf and Gene Balk contributed to this report, which includes information from Times archives.