Update: Seattle police have arrested a suspect in the shooting at Westlake Station. The most recent story can be found here.
Two incidents of violence on the Sound Transit light-rail system this weekend — a deadly shooting at the system’s busiest station Friday night, and a stabbing aboard a train Saturday afternoon — occurred as Seattle officials try to manage the perception and reality of safety downtown.
“It is awful,” Mayor Jenny Durkan said Saturday evening in a prepared statement. “We must put an end to senseless gun violence — in our public spaces and neighborhoods, and in our homes and schools. Too many have suffered. Together we must change this culture of violence.”
On Saturday, with the shooter at large, police released surveillance video of the man they said was the suspected gunman in Friday night’s triple shooting on the northbound platform of Westlake Station that left one man dead and one in critical condition at Harborview Medical Center. On Sunday morning, the victim at Harborview was upgraded to serious condition, but remained in intensive care, a hospital spokeswoman said.
A third victim was discharged from the hospital early Saturday.
Police said the shooting was believed to be connected to an argument that started among three men at Third Avenue and Pine Street and turned violent as the dispute moved below ground to the tunnel station. At 9:20 p.m., gunfire erupted. The man who left the hospital Saturday did not appear to have been part of the dispute, police said.
At the east end of the platform, a witness said he heard yelling at the other end of the station, followed by “several loud pops.” Roughly 20 people were standing on the platform when the shooting occurred, he said. They ran up the stairs to the exit at Fifth Avenue and Pine Street, where an officer was instructing people to keep moving up.
“It was startling. It was surprising,” the witness said. “It was all happening so quickly that we didn’t have time to be scared.”
The suspected shooter, who, like the victims, is believed by police to be in his 20s, is seen on the video jogging up from the station using the stairway at Third Avenue and Pine Street. There is a gun in his right hand. The video is stamped at 9:22 p.m., within a couple of minutes of the shooting.
About 4:30 p.m. Saturday, about the time the University of Washington Huskies were taking the field at home, emergency crews responded to the Montlake area. A man who had been stabbed sometime during his light-rail ride exited at the University of Washington Station.
The victim, a 42-year-old man, sustained minor injuries and was taken to a hospital, according to a Seattle Fire Department spokesperson.
Authorities detained a suspect when he exited a train. Details were not immediately available about what may have led to the violence, where the stabbing occurred or where the arrest was made.
Police emphasized the shooting was not a random act. And light-rail stations — policed by a combination of private security, King County sheriff’s deputies and Seattle police officers — are safe, they say.
“This violent crime is certainly an anomaly,” said Seattle police spokesperson Sgt. Sean Whitcomb. “People should know this isn’t something that will happen again tomorrow night, next week, next month.”
The number of shootings across the city has increased this year. As of early September, the most recent point for which data was immediately available, 55 people were wounded in shootings, and 15 were killed. That is up from 45 wounded and nine killed during the same period last year.
While crime has plummeted from 1990s levels, visible drug use and violent activity are evident in the downtown core. In recent months, police have stepped up patrols in crime hot spots — including at Third and Pine, where the altercation broke out.
Seattle City Councilmember Sally Bagshaw, representing downtown District 7, said she was dismayed by the shooting. She said she sees no simple answer to ending gun violence in Seattle, but supported additional patrols.
“Based on what I am hearing from businesses in Pioneer Square and Belltown and downtown, those (patrols) are having a positive impact, and we need to do more of that in the short term,” Bagshaw said. “And invest a lot more in the mental and behavioral health in the long term.”
Durkan noted that the city and the Seattle Police Department have been deploying new strategies to address public-safety issues downtown including emphasis patrols.
“We must approach public safety in a holistic manner to most effectively address the root causes of crime and gun violence,” Durkan said in her prepared statement.
A man on the platform during the Friday shooting said the incident would not stop him from taking light rail.
“I don’t want to say that it’s anything I would like to get used to,” he said. “But unfortunately these things happen, in the U.S., at least.”