A total of seven people were wounded in two separate shootings on Wednesday, but Seattle police say reports of gunfire — and gunfire victims — are down this year compared to last year.
Seattle police detectives were interviewing witnesses, canvassing the area and looking for video as they searched for the gunman who opened fire outside a downtown convenience store Wednesday night, wounding five people including two bystanders.
Police spokesman Sgt. Sean Whitcomb said Thursday the department was giving the investigation top priority, calling it “absolutely unacceptable.”
At the same time, Whitcomb described the shooting as an anomaly, saying it wasn’t random.
“You’ve got tens of thousands of people” normally traveling in the corridor where the shooting occurred “and, for the most part, nobody gets hurt,” Whitcomb said.
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The shooting was reported shortly before 7 p.m. outside a 7-Eleven store on Third Avenue between Pike and Pine streets, near a major bus stop.
Witnesses said some people were arguing when the gunman began to walk away, and then turned around and fired into the crowd.
The five victims range in age from their 20s to 50s, and they have gunshot wounds to their legs, chest and neck. One victim, a male, was released from Harborview Medical Center and four others — three males and a female — were listed in satisfactory condition at the hospital on Friday.
The bystanders have the least serious injuries, a police spokesman said. One was a man who was waiting for a bus after work, according to a relative who asked not to be identified.
No other details, including a description of the gunman, were released on the shooting, which occurred in an area where in the spring of 2015 Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and other local officials launched a push — called the “9 ½ Block Strategy — to disrupt and shut down an open-air drug market in the downtown core.
The effort led to drops in some crimes and calls, including robberies and narcotics-related calls, in a comparison between the May-December period in 2014 and 2015.
Sharon Keith, manager of the 7-Eleven, said she heard what “sounded like firecrackers” and told everyone to get down. She locked the doors and looked outside.
“I saw multiple people down, bleeding,” she said.
There were additional police at the time in the downtown area because of an anti-Donald Trump rally, which started at Westlake Mall earlier in the evening. The rally turned into a march and was proceeding down various streets at the time of the shootings, according to witnesses.
Police said the shooting was not related to the protest.
The shooting happened just hours after two men were wounded in an exchange of gunfire in a parking lot in Seattle’s New Holly neighborhood.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray expressed condolences for the victims in a statement late Wednesday, saying “gun violence remains an epidemic in our country that we must work to address in any way we can. Today’s shootings are a reminder of how much work we have left to do.”
Wednesday’s gunfire came at a time when shootings are down citywide.
From January to Oct. 24, there have been 280 confirmed incidents of shots fired, compared to 322 during the same period last year.
Of those, nine people were killed and 46 injured during the period this year, compared to 14 killed and 62 injured last year.
The number of shootings in Seattle in 2015 prompted police to shuffle resources to address the spike in gunfire.