by: Natasha Chen Updated:
SEATTLE - A 45-year-old man is in serious condition with a gunshot wound to the stomach after an argument inside the Union Gospel Mission at around 11:45 Wednesday morning.
Seattle police initially arrested an 82-year-old man, but later released him in the afternoon when he told them a 45-year-old man was trying to rob and assault him.
Union Gospel Mission staff identified the 45-year-old as Darren Jerome Nelson. Nelson, who has previously served prison time, had been coming to receive services for the last few months. Staff told KIRO 7 Nelson is a frequent visitor who is trying to turn his life around.
Nelson's fiancee, Nicole Simper, said she saw the whole exchange. She said Nelson was not trying to rob anyone.
Simper said she and Nelson were in the community room, a holding place where 70 people were gathered before going into the dining room before lunch.
She said she saw Nelson get up to talk to a friend. When the friend left, he somehow got into a heated exchange with the 82-year-old man. She heard Nelson say some racial remarks to the older man.
Simper, who is Caucasian, said that her fiance, who is African-American, never speaks like that. She said he must have been provoked. She then saw the 82-year-old shoot Nelson.
Police said he shot twice. Staff at the mission said Nelson was hit in the stomach.
Simper said, "What if you knew that person that was shot? What if you were in my shoes, knowing that shooter was still out there? And my husband - is in - not breathing on his own?"
As of Wednesday night, Nelson was in serious condition at Harborview Medical Center.
This location of the Union Gospel Mission includes a men's shelter, a dental clinic, legal services and a drug rehabilitation program.
Terry Pallas, the director of the men's shelter, said his office was right upstairs from the community room.
"As soon as I heard a shot and a scream immediately following, I ran downstairs, mobilized the staff," he said. "There was a tussle, the weapon was exposed, and they were able to get the weapon on the floor and quite a ways away from the perpetrator. He just actually stood on the gun with his foot until police came just to keep it on the exact same location."
Pallas said that they have a strict no-weapons policy at the Union Gospel Mission. Those who have shown any aggression in the past are not permitted to enter.
He said the staff did not know the 82-year-old well. He said the man was not in the mission's register and that some staff only knew him to be someone who slept in his car a few blocks away.
Pallas said they do not have a pat-down procedure for people entering, and they only occasionally wand people entering to sleep for the night.
"The entire reason why we exist as an organization is really to create a space for folks to get in out of the elements, to get a warm meal when they don't have the ability, to eat or have a safe place to sleep," he said.