Man fatally shot in front of dozens in South Seattle church, police say

SEATTLE — A fatal shooting inside a South Seattle church has the community reeling. Seattle police say the murder happened in front of dozens of people, who were gathered for a meeting.

Officers were called to the Emerald City Bible Fellowship church in 7700 block of Rainier Avenue South just before 4pm.

“This is unbelievable, especially inside the church? I mean, come on. This is crazy!” said Leslie Milton Jr, a neighbor.

Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz said there was some sort of meeting inside the church with about 40 people when the suspect showed up. He said the suspect was not part of the meeting or group.

“He came into the meeting, there was a discussion between the victim and suspect - at which point the suspect then pulled out a gun, fatally shooting the victim,” Diaz said during a press conference.

People at a Crossfit gym next door said they heard people screaming, then saw them running outside before first responders and a large police response arrived.

“They brought out the young man,” Milton said. “Then the mother came out. She was not happy. She was punching her fists and said, ‘Whoever killed my son, I’m going to find you,’” he said.

Chief Diaz later said the victim is an adult, but did not have information on his age. He said detectives would be working to interview the 40 people who witnessed the murder.

People in the Rainier Valley neighborhood say they’ve struggled to cope with the gun violence.

“This killing has to stop. It’s unnecessary. I don’t know why it’s happening on the south end all the time,” said Saed Mohamed, who was picking up food across the street when he saw the large police scene.

But for some - this case is particularly painful.

“This right here is unprecedented - not inside the church,” Milton said. “They really need to patrol this area more than anything because everything happens on Rainier Avenue between Henderson and Graham,” he said.

The police chief says he hears these concerns – and added that this shooting hits home for him too.

“This is one of the reasons why I’m out here,” Diaz said. “It’s really important for us - for me as the Chief - to be out here, making sure I support. I’ve done a lot of work at this church,” he said.

“They done community gatherings, really try and really build bridges in the community. It’s such a tragedy to have that happen today,” Diaz said.

Police say they believe they’ve identified the suspect and are searching for him.