Update, 8 a.m. June 23: The 19-year-old who was shot dead early Saturday morning has been identified as Lorenzo Anderson. The 33-year-old man injured in the shooting is now in satisfactory condition and no longer in intensive care at Harborview Medical Center, according to a statement from hospital spokesperson Susan Gregg.
A deadly Saturday shooting at the edge of Seattle’s nationally watched Capitol Hill protest zone — one of two shootings reported there over the weekend — is raising challenges for police investigators, while spurring debate among policymakers and activists over how to discourage nighttime violence.
A 19-year-old man was shot dead early Saturday morning at 10th Avenue and East Pine Street, near a boundary of the roughly six-block Capitol Hill Organized Protest, known as CHOP or CHAZ, where demonstrators have largely blocked off law-enforcement access amid demands to defund the Police Department.
A 33-year-old man was wounded and remained in critical condition as of Monday morning in the intensive care unit at Harborview Medical Center, according to hospital spokeswoman Susan Gregg.
Neither victim has been publicly identified by authorities.
Sunday evening, making her first public statement on the shooting, Mayor Jenny Durkan said “thousands of peaceful demonstrators gather almost daily” on Capitol Hill, but acknowledged “more dangerous conditions” at night.
She said the city “will continue to make changes on Capitol Hill in partnership with Black-led community organizations, demonstrators, small businesses, residents, and trusted messengers who will center deescalation.”
Kelsey Nyland, a spokeswoman for the Mayor’s Office, said Durkan and city staff have been meeting with small business owners in the Cal Anderson Park and Pike/Pine corridor and hearing about problems emerging at night.
She said near-term strategies include “community-based deescalators” who can act as liaisons between the city and residents in and around the protest zone on policing issues.
As of Sunday, police had released no information about suspects or any motive in the fatal shooting, saying it remains under investigation.
Police investigators and Fire Department medics did not reach the shooting scene Saturday morning, citing unsafe conditions. Both victims were taken to Harborview Medical Center by private citizens, while Fire Department medics waited outside the protest zone, citing standard policy to wait for police to declare potentially dangerous areas secure before entering.
Another shooting in the protest area — the second in 48 hours — was reported Sunday night. A 17-year-old with a gunshot wound was brought in a private vehicle to Harborview Medical Center in serious condition around 11 p.m., and was treated and released, according to hospital spokesperson Susan Gregg. Seattle police said Monday morning that the teen, whose arm was wounded, “declined to speak with detectives.” No other details were immediately available.
Protesters have occupied the area since Seattle police abandoned the East Precinct after successive days of clashes with crowds participating in a national wave of protests against police brutality. The demonstrations were sparked by the killing of George Floyd, the Black man killed by a Minneapolis police officer who pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly eight minutes.
While the zone has remained largely peaceful, the outburst of violence Saturday led some activists to suggest changes.
Some organizers affiliated with the protest zone distributed an unsigned letter Sunday calling for “suggested” CHOP hours of 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. to encourage the area “to stop being a chaotic, immobile zone” in the overnight hours, though some residents and volunteers would remain overnight. The letter also suggested that intoxicated persons stay away from the protest zone.
It remains to be seen if the shooting will have lasting effects on the ongoing protest, but it is unlikely to shift activists’ view that police do not create true community safety.
In a statement Saturday, Decriminalize Seattle, a group pushing to redirect funding from police to community organizations, pointed to the fatal stabbing of a Black woman, 25-year-old Rayshauna Webber, in the same area last summer, when the East Precinct was operating normally. “The presence of police did not stop that death,” the group said.
By Sunday morning, operations in the CHOP appeared to be underway as they have been for two weeks. Residents emerged from their tents, handed out food and supplies and prepared the Decolonization Conversation Cafe. Near 10th and Pine, a vigil of flowers and balloons in honor of the man killed was surrounded by caution tape. In the afternoon, a group gathered on the field at Cal Anderson Park for a people’s assembly.
There, a group of informal suggestions circulated, including the proposal to narrow the CHOP’s hours. Speakers emphasized that the list was not prescriptive; a group of about 25 people agreed on the ideas, they said. Others in the area had not yet heard about the suggestions.
One speaker wondered about the effectiveness of continuing to occupy the area near the East Precinct, but there was no consensus to leave.
In interviews, demonstrators said the group is mourning the tragedy and also hoping to keep focus on their demands, including defunding Seattle police.
The group is “realigning ourselves,” said Marcus Henderson, who along with others has established community gardens in Cal Anderson Park and has been involved in some organizing meetings. “That murder represents what we’re fighting for. There is violence against Black men that is not being dealt with.”
The protest-zone scene has complicated the shooting investigation, preventing police from the usual practice of taping off a crime scene to take photos and collect evidence.
At the time of the shooting, officers were not able to establish a secure area for homicide detectives to safely respond, said Sgt. Lauren Truscott, a Seattle police spokeswoman. Homicide detectives are conducting interviews and following up on leads and tips, Truscott said.
“Although this homicide investigation has presented some very unique challenges, we have not lost sight of the fact there’s still a 19-year-old victim and detectives are still putting every ounce of effort into solving this homicide,” she said.
Truscott said police are still responding to the edges of the CHOP boundaries, taking police reports and conducting follow-up investigations.
Last week, police arrested a suspect accused of igniting a fire outside the East Precinct and arrested a second suspect accused of breaking into an auto-repair shop.
As for the police response on the night of the shooting, Truscott said the officers’ response was in line with training for active shooter scenes.
“They were faced with a hostile crowd and made a tactical decision to leave the area for the officers’ safety and for the safety of the crowd,” she said.
However, the police response and narrative has drawn criticism from protesters.
Video shot by bystanders and by police body cameras showed several officers entering the protest zone with guns drawn, as some protesters demanded they put the weapons away, shouting, apparently before the second wounded man was discovered, that the victim already had been taken to the hospital. The officers eventually retreated, with a group of protesters at one point forming a human chain to stop others from following the police.
“To have police come in with their hands on their weapons, it’s trauma,” said Sophie Maziraga, who recently joined the group staying at the CHOP and said she witnessed the shooting.
Truscott couldn’t comment on whether shell casings had been turned over to police, as that information is part of the ongoing investigation. Seattle police typically do not comment about open homicide investigations.
Seattle City Councilmember Lisa Herbold, who chairs the council’s public safety committee, said in a texted statement she rejected “the narrative that the mood of the crowd prevented the SPD from reaching the victims…” However, she wrote that she appreciates that CHOP leaders “have been meeting in recognition that this is not a sustainable situation,” pointing to “the presence of large numbers of people” gathering at night, including some with guns, as a barrier to access by Fire Department medics.
A CHOP medic and witness who were on the scene said they urged Fire Department personnel to come inside the area, even sending someone sprinting up to the nearby fire station to ask for help.
In an emailed statement, a spokeswoman for the Seattle Fire Department said Sunday that the department’s policy, when responding to scenes of violence, is to wait for police to secure the scene for medic crews to safely enter and treat patients.
“For the safety of our crews, this [policy] is also in effect for fire and medical emergencies at East Olive Street, East Pine Street and East Pike Street, from 13th Avenue to Nagel Place,” an area that includes 10th Avenue and the south end of Cal Anderson Park, spokeswoman Kristin Tinsley wrote. “Our crews do not have training to go into a volatile situation to extract patients, which is why we have instructed people to bring the patients to the perimeter of the crowd or transport in a private vehicle to the hospital to expedite medical treatment.”
Seattle’s elected leaders have spoken in mostly positive terms about the CHOP zone and the goals of its organizers, reserving their harshest criticism for Republicans and conservative media who have portrayed the zone as a lawless cesspool.
In an interview last week, prior to the shooting, Durkan said her greatest fear about the protest zone was that violence would erupt there due to comments by President Donald Trump and conservatives calling for the zone to be cleared out.
In her statement Sunday, Durkan embraced the message of Black Lives Matter and protests against police violence and racism.
“We will continue to focus on the systemic changes demanded by this time in history. We must hear the voices raised in protest, admit and dismantle the systemic perpetuation of racism, and invest broadly in the health and wealth of our communities of color, particularly our Black community,” she said.
In a statement Saturday, Seattle City Councilwoman Kshama Sawant publicly speculated, without citing evidence, that the violence “may have been a right-wing attack” and blamed Trump and “conservative and corporate media outlets” for portraying the protest zone as chaotic.
On Sunday, her office said in a separate statement her earlier comments had been based on “reports on social media,” saying the statement had been “conditional” while awaiting further confirmation of details.
The new statement said regardless of the shooting details, “it is extremely important our movement fight against the dangerous misinformation from corporate and conservative media and from the Trump administration.”
At the No Cop Co-op, set up in front of a vehicle entrance to the boarded-up East Precinct, Gabriella Leyva said those living and demonstrating in the CHOP want more cooperation from paramedics at the Fire Department. “We’re not here to attack them. We want the same thing, we want everyone to be safe.”
The mood in the area seemed more serious Sunday morning, Leyva said. “I think people are starting to see that it’s not a block party and I’m thankful for that…. This is about trying to end police brutality.”