Seattle police held a news conference Tuesday to discuss recent violence in the city and give “detailed descriptions of ongoing efforts to solve active cases dating back to July.”
Gun violence is up in Seattle, and although police say most of those involved in recent shootings are gang members, much of the gang violence stems from arguments over money or romantic relationships, rather than tit-for-tat turf disputes.
“It’s really not a gang conflict,” said Assistant Police Chief Robert Merner after a media briefing Tuesday that detailed police response to this summer’s uptick in shootings. “They have personal things going on with ex-girlfriends and so on.”
There’s been a 30.6 percent increase in shots fired in Seattle through Aug. 17 from the same period last year, and a 16.3 percent increase in shooting injuries, police said. Nine people have died in shootings this year through Aug. 17, compared with 10 in the same period of 2014.
Police sources said a Federal Way drive-by-shooting that killed 20-year-old Muldhata Dawud in late July might have been sparked by an altercation over a woman. A day later, 20-year-old Zakariya Issa was fatally shot in Seattle’s Dunlap neighborhood over a disagreement about money, according to a friend of Issa’s. Issa and Dawud were close friends, but the fatal shootings were not believed to be related. Suspects have been arrested in both shootings.
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Merner said sometimes violence fueled by infighting between gang members can be more difficult to follow than back-and-forth gang conflicts, but he added it’s sometimes easier to get information from informants or from interviewing people involved.
The trend is not uncommon, Merner said, noting police and society need to get to the root of “what causes a 21-year-old person to pick up a gun and shoot someone over an argument they had over a girl?”
He said police want to work on intervening in the lives of shooters and preventing gun violence, but he said first they must “take these shooters off the street.” He added there is some back-and-forth gun violence between gangs, too.
Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole said gun violence is mostly committed by a small number of people. She spoke at the news conference about short-term strategies, such as information-sharing with agencies around the Puget Sound and national policing bureaus, as well as big-picture strategies, such as task forces, community outreach, and using data to target those frequently committing violence.
“We are focusing on locations where we’ve had a high incidence of shootings,” she said, later adding that in addition to strategizing around macro-violence patterns over longer periods of time, the department is sussing out trends “from week to week, and now, from day to day.”
“Definitely our Number One focus is on shots fired and shooting incidents.”
She said that although many involved in shootings have criminal histories and are gang members, that doesn’t diminish the department’s response.
“It’s a horrible tragedy when a young gang member loses his life,” O’Toole said. “I mean every homicide, every death is a tragedy.”
Information in this article, originally published Aug. 25, 2015, was corrected Aug. 26, 2015. A previous version of this story incorrectly stated Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole’s name.