Gun violence in Seattle: ‘What we’re seeing this year is unprecedented,’ police chief says

SEATTLE — A quadruple shooting late Monday night in West Seattle near Alki Beach left one man dead.

It’s the latest murder in a major spike of gun violence in the city that has Seattle’s police chief concerned.

“What we’re seeing this year is unprecedented. I haven’t seen this many shootings in over a decade,” said Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz.

At the shooting scene at 60th Avenue Southwest and Alki Avenue, there is now a memorial of flowers, balloons and messages starting for the young man shot and killed. Family members said he was 22 years old.

Witnesses said the shooting started after a woman got hit by a firework. That started a fight with another group. One man tried to defend the woman, then someone from the other group opened fire.

“The girl who got hit ... with the firework got shot in the leg, her significant other got shot in the leg, and her friend got killed,” said Jason, a witness who only wanted to be identified by his first name. “It sounded like he unloaded a clip. There (were) a lot of shots, eight or nine shots,” he said.

He and another neighbor said it looked like another man fired back.

Chief Diaz was at the shooting scene into Tuesday morning.

“This has been an extremely deadly month for us,” Diaz said at the scene. On Tuesday, in an interview with KIRO7, he said there have been 228 shots fired calls so far this year — up 30% from this time last year.

“And last year was a record-breaking year for us, so that’s a huge concern. We’ve had 83 victims that have been shot this year alone,” he said.

There are 23 homicides so far this year.

Diaz said supporting young people — helping them figure out how to resolve conflict without turning to violence — is something he’s passionate about. He says the police department is working on reducing gun violence.

“We need to stop the shootings. We need to put down the guns. For us, we need to be able to take some of those guns off the street. We need to heal as a community,” Diaz said. “The police department has to heal with the community. We can’t be at odds with the community,” he said.

Neighbors along Alki Avenue say something they’d like to see is more patrols after the park closes.

“Seeing this uptick, what do you expect will be different, if anything, from SPD?” asked KIRO7′s Deedee Sun.

“We are going to put emphasis out throughout the city. Even with the staffing issue, we have a responsibility to make sure the city is safe,” Diaz said.

He said the department is down close to 260 officers over the last year and a half, but is working on getting as much visible presence from officers as possible.

“I look at major cities that have seen an increase in violence as well, but that can’t be Seattle. It just can’t be Seattle,” Diaz said.