Police say the man who fired the gun Friday night at the University of Washington claimed he had been assaulted by the man he shot, and that he believed he was a white supremacist. Friends of the critically injured man, say he is no racist.
The man who surrendered to police in connection with the University of Washington shooting Friday night was released after telling investigators he fired in self-defense during a campus protest, according to two law-enforcement officials briefed on the case.
No details about any confrontation between him and the critically wounded man were available Saturday. But one of the law-enforcement officials said the man who fired the gun claimed he had been assaulted before shooting the other man, whom he believed to be some type of white supremacist.
The condition of the wounded 34-year-old man improved from critical to serious Sunday, according to Susan Gregg at Harborview Medical Center, where he underwent surgery. Gregg said the man, whose name was not released, remained in the Intensive Care Unit, but was breathing on his own. His condition was unchanged Monday morning.
The shooting, which occurred during a protest of a Friday-night speech at Kane Hall by Breitbart News Network editor and provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, remains under investigation.
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Two people who said they are friends with the wounded man disputed the characterization of him as a supremacist. One said his friend supported Bernie Sanders in the Democratic presidential primary, and both said he sports an anti-hate tattoo that consists of a black swastika surrounded by a red circle with a slash through it.
Max Vohra of Seattle, who has known the man for seven years, said his friend got the tattoo more than a decade ago “when he was living in California, and had to deal with a lot of racists in the punk scene.” The idea for the tattoo, Vohra said, came from a NOFX song called “The Brews,” which references “anti-swastika tattoos.”
Daniel Herrera, who has worked and socialized with the man for three years, said he’s never seen his friend be aggressive.
“He has always been of the mind to be compassionate, empathetic and to educate. That’s his goal,” Herrera said.
UW police offered few details Saturday, saying in a news release that no suspects were being sought, and that the man who said he fired the gun was released pending investigation.
UW spokesman Norm Arkans defended the university’s handling of the event, saying that 80 Seattle police officers were brought in to supplement the 25 officers UW assigned to the event.
The officers had planned and practiced for the protests, and interrupted fights when they broke out, Arkans said.
“It was tense, but things were really working,’’ he said.
The university has no plans to increase security as a result of the shooting, and views the incident as “unfortunate and isolated,” according to UW police Maj. Steve Rittereiser.
Yiannopoulos’ visit to campus was highly anticipated. There were rumors that protesters would try to shut down the speech by the senior editor at Breitbart News, which has been denounced by many as a platform for hate. His speech at the University of California, Davis, on Jan. 13 was canceled by its sponsors, the UC Davis College Republicans, when protesters blocked access.
Yiannopoulos has been permanently banned from Twitter for racism and misogyny. In a speech last month at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, he mocked a transgender student, displaying her name and photo prominently on-screen. The school’s chancellor condemned the speech in a campuswide email.
At the UW, people began lining up for the Kane Hall speech, sponsored by the College Republicans, late Friday afternoon. The crowd began clashing about two hours later, when a group of people dressed in black showed up and forced its way to the front of the line.
Police formed a line outside to help ticket-holders get in, but protesters surrounded them. Several people were hit with paint, and officers dodged flying bricks.
Word of the shooting made its way into Kane Hall, and Yiannopoulos briefly left the stage before returning.
“If we don’t continue, they have won,” he said. The crowd cheered.
Once the speech ended, police told audience members to remove their Donald Trump hats and other gear before leaving. Officers escorted the crowd out through an underground parking garage as a crowd of about 250 people remained outside the building.
After the shooting, the man, accompanied by another person, turned himself in to UW police, Rittereiser said in the news release. Both people were taken into custody.
Detectives investigated and, after consulting with the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, released both people, according to Rittereiser.
Arkans, the UW spokesman, said he was confident the campus was safe for students. The university bans guns on campus, and has screened for weapons during past high-profile visits by then-President Obama and by the Dalai Lama.
Such screening would have been impossible for a big open space like Red Square, he said.
University President Ana Mari Cauce sent a letter to students, parents and faculty on Saturday to condemn the violence and to explain why the event was allowed to proceed, despite community concerns about violence and pleas for her to cancel it.
“There is the legal right of our student groups to invite speakers, even a controversial one whose message is anathema to many, including me,’’ she wrote. “We are bound by the law. But beyond that, canceling the event would have sent the message that a risk of disruption or conflict can be used to overwhelm our rights. That would empower those on the extremes willing to resort to such tactics.”