Just before two teenagers were shot at the Capitol Hill Organized Protest in the early morning hours of June 29, the scene outside the closed Seattle police East Precinct was one of confused chaos.
People ran. They yelled. There were unconfirmed reports of multiple shooters and multiple vehicles involved.
The shooting killed 16-year-old Antonio Mays Jr., left a 14-year-old boy in serious condition with gunshot wounds and effectively ended the city’s waning tolerance toward the protest zone known as CHOP.
Seattle police have given few details about the shooting and said the crime scene was disturbed before they arrived. They’ve declined to answer questions, saying it remains an active investigation. No one has been arrested.
Seattle police detectives didn’t get to the scene until 7:45 a.m., police said, nearly five hours after the shooting. Police have not explained the delay.
A review by The Seattle Times of multiple surveillance videos and livestream feeds shows a picture of the night’s tumult, with one cluster of gunshots around three minutes before what appears to be the fatal shooting. Many people at the CHOP area that night appeared to believe they were being attacked. Whether they were is unclear. Armed protesters had been a common sight in the area for weeks.
It was the second homicide in or around the CHOP area in the span of nine days. In the immediate aftermath of the first killing, police detectives never made it to the crime scene to collect evidence. Police have given few details about the killing of Lorenzo Anderson, 19, and no one has been arrested.
“Two African American men are dead, at a place where they claim to be working for Black Lives Matter. But they’re gone, they’re dead now,” Seattle police Chief Carmen Best said last week after the most recent killing. “Enough is enough.”
Protesters had occupied the CHOP, the blocks immediately around the precinct and Cal Anderson Park, for three weeks, ever since Seattle police abandoned the precinct after weeks of nightly protests that frequently ended when police deployed tear gas.
“The deteriorating conditions and repeated gun violence required us to immediately address public safety concerns,” Mayor Jenny Durkan said last week. “We don’t know yet enough about those shootings to determine exactly who did it, but it should never happen in the city of Seattle.”
The day after the shooting, Durkan closed Cal Anderson Park, the center of the protest area. The next day, citing “a pervasive presence of firearms,” Durkan ordered police to clear CHOP and dozens of officers dismantled the site, arresting at least 44 people.
‘Like any other kid’
Mays was not a regular at the site. He was from San Diego and had been in Seattle for less than a week, drawn by the protests and the CHOP area, his family said. On Wednesday, June 24, five days before the shooting, he took some money from his dad, wrote a note and left, his family said.
“He told my brother he was going to Seattle to be a part of history and protest,” his uncle, Michael Mays, told The Seattle Times, describing the note. “And he just wanted us to be proud of him.”
The family doesn’t know how he traveled to Seattle or who the 14-year-old boy is who was with him when he was shot.
“He was into mischief like any other kid, but he was respectful, he listened, he was just into mischief,” Michael Mays said. “For him to make it up to Seattle, for that to happen, I don’t think you understand and realize how much of a shock it was. It’s unreal. It feels like it’s a dream.”
Antonio Mays liked video games and rapping and playing with his 7-year-old sister, his family said. He didn’t even own a cellphone. His family called him Little Tony, or Rico. His dad owns a barbecue sauce and catering company and sells food at San Diego farmers markets and festivals.
“For us, family are those that come together to take care of each other,” his father, Antonio Mays Sr., wrote on his company’s website.
Antonio Mays’ aunt, Diva Walls, said the family hasn’t heard from Seattle police or the mayor’s office.
“It took all these deaths for them to go and say, ‘this is enough,'” Walls said. “It shouldn’t have taken that. That’s what city officials are for. And I’m disgusted that none of these people have reached out to my family.”
Durkan’s office said the mayor has spoken with the family of Lorenzo Anderson, who was killed in the first fatal CHOP shooting, and has reached out “through an intermediary” to Mays’ family. A police department spokesperson said Best has left voicemail messages for Mays’ parents.
“The way that it was handled down there in that zone was just horrendous and it’s unbelievable and I can’t believe it and I want to get to the truth,” Walls said.
‘Everybody down, everybody down’
The videos used in the Times review, which were posted to social media, were shot from the northeast corner of 12th Avenue and East Pine Street, from the southeast corner of Bobby Morris Playfield and by livestreamers including Omari Salisbury, a journalist with Converge Media who was at the scene shortly after the shooting.
About five minutes before the fatal shooting, videos show roughly a dozen people run from the encampment that had flanked the shuttered precinct building for weeks.
It’s 2:53 a.m.
Most run west, toward Cal Anderson. But a few run the opposite direction.
About a minute later: Gunshots. First, two or three. Then a 20-second lull. And then about 10 more shots, in rapid succession.
Shouts from the protest area sound like they should be coming from a war zone, not a sleepy urban neighborhood.
“Everybody down, everybody down!”
“Eyes up, eyes up, eyes up!”
“Anyone with weapons, I want them behind this barrier … multiple vehicles, multiple vehicles, stolen white Jeep!”
It’s unclear why the speaker thinks, or how they know, the Jeep is stolen.
At 2:57 a.m. a silver SUV travels around the precinct at 12th Avenue and East Pine Street without incident.
Someone says: “We have multiple shooters.”
“If you are not armed, hide, get down.”
“I need eyes on every single intersection.”
“Everybody who is not armed, I need them on the ground.”
At 2:58 a.m., three minutes after the previous gunshots, tires screech and a white Jeep Cherokee traveling up East Pike Street turns left on 12th, headed toward the protest area.
Seattle police said that Mays and the injured 14-year-old were “presumably the occupants of the Jeep.”
There’s a scream, then a gunshot, then two more. People duck behind barricades and flee. The Jeep hits either a concrete barrier or a portable toilet at the edge of the protest area. Six more gunshots.
The Jeep backs up briefly, then drives forward again, and again hits the barrier and the toilet. Ten more gunshots.
Someone appears to approach the Jeep.
“Oh, you’re not dead, huh?” someone says. “Yo, you want to get pistol whipped?”
The shots woke Travis Stewart, 35, and his partner, who were asleep in their loft overlooking the intersection of 12th and East Pike Street.
When the shooting was over, Stewart ran downstairs.
He said he saw one man in a mask and a blue, long-sleeved shirt walk south on 12th, past the scene of the crash, crouch at the intersection and aim a rifle south. Another person in dark clothing appeared at his shoulder, Stewart said.
“And then I heard him say, ‘Let’s go,'” Stewart said, before the man crossed the street, and headed back north toward the crash and the precinct.
“Almost no one came back down to that [intersection],” he said. “The only thing we could hear after that was people crying for help and trying to get people into cars.”
“To not go down and be able to help people down there was devastating, but what can you do in that situation?” Stewart said. “I don’t own a gun, and even if I did, walking in with one wasn’t going to solve anything.”
He said police have not reached out to him.
‘There’s no police on the scene’
A group of amateur medics clustered next to the Jeep, trying to treat the two boys. It was a chaotic scene, with a small crowd around the medics and various people shouting instructions.
“We need to throw these guys in a car and get them to a hospital now,” someone says.
Salisbury, who was livestreaming from a block away, tried to tell emergency medical officials what was going on, in the hopes they were watching his feed.
“If you’re listening at Harborview Medical Center,” he says, “there’s one car that’s inbound right now that has a gunshot wound [victim], there’s another car that hasn’t left the premises yet.”
Both gunshot victims were taken from the scene in private vehicles: one straight to Harborview, and one to a meeting point with Seattle Fire Department medics, who then took him to Harborview, according to police.
Much about the shooting remains unclear.
A Seattle man in his 30s, who asked not to be identified, said he was the owner of a white Jeep matching the description of the one at the shooting scene. He said he was walking home, along 11th Avenue next to Cal Anderson at around 2:30 a.m., when two guys attacked him, taking his backpack, his phone and hitting him in the leg with a pickax. He did not say if they had any other weapons.
He said he gave them his car keys to convince them to go away.
“They were physically threatening me, I was bleeding,” the man said. “I said, ‘I have a car, just take my car.'”
He said he was treated by CHOP medics and then driven to Harborview.
The man said last Wednesday he’s since spoken with Seattle police detectives.
People in the protest area said they thought shots were coming from the Jeep before shooters fired at the vehicle.
“Callers reported several unidentified people had fired shots into the Jeep,” Seattle police said.
The white Jeep appears to have been driven on the turf playfield at Cal Anderson a little earlier in the night, alarming protesters who were camped nearby. But no solid evidence has emerged publicly indicating that anyone in the Jeep was firing gunshots. No one else was reported shot.
“Active shooters came through in a stolen vehicle that spun around the field a few times and then they tried to come through our barriers,” one man says, standing next to the crashed Jeep, blood stains on his sweatshirt. “And our people weren’t having it. We already had their right tire out and we [expletive] drew down and took them out the car and we gave them the service.”
After the shooting, at least one person with a rifle can be seen walking toward the scene. It is legal to carry guns openly in Washington state.
Inside the Jeep, blood is spattered throughout. Its windows are shattered and it’s pocked with bullet holes.
“There’s no fire or emergency, there’s no police on the scene,” Salisbury says.
Maybe a dozen people stand around the vehicle, chatting casually.
“I’m sorry,” someone standing next to the crashed Jeep says, “I ran out of bullets.”