‘This is about life or death’: City says SPD will return to East Precinct

VIDEO: City says SPD will return to East Precinct

SEATTLE — Seattle city leaders said Monday they’re taking action following a weekend of violence in the “Capitol Hill Protest zone.”

A 33-year-old man was also shot and is at Harborview Medical Center receiving treatment.

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Less than 48 hours later, another shooting sent a 17-year-old boy to the hospital.

Mayor Durkan speaks out

Durkan said at a news conference Monday that officials are working with the community to bring the CHOP zone to an end after two weeks.

"We cannot let acts of violence define this movement for change," Durkan said.

The mayor said the violence was distracting from changes sought by thousands of peaceful protesters seeking to address racial inequity and police brutality.

Durkan said there had been no major incidents during the day in the CHOP zone but added inside “we know it is very different at night.”

The mayor said the nighttime atmosphere and violence in the CHOP zone has led to “increasingly difficult circumstances for our businesses and residents.”

"The city will not allow for gun violence to continue in the evenings around Capitol Hill," said Durkan. "And if individuals continue to remain at the park, we will be looking at additional steps for community safety."

Chief Best and the return to the East Precinct

Durkan said Best made it clear that Seattle Police Department officers need to return to the East Precinct to appropriately respond to 911 calls.

“SPD will be returning to the East Precinct. We will do it peacefully in the near future,” Durkan said. “But it is clear that while the physical space is important, we are going to focus our greatest efforts on reimagining policing itself.”

Best echoed Durkan’s sentiment that the city can only move forward if officers and community members work together.

The police chief noted that many people inside the CHOP zone are peaceful but added there are groups of individuals who are engaging in shootings, assaults and other crimes.

Best said when officers responded to the shooting on Saturday night they were met with a hostile crowd that prevented them, and medics, from getting to the victims.

“This is not about politics, and I’m not a politician,” Best said. “This is a debate about life or death. So we need a plan… I cannot stand by, not another second and watch another black man, or anyone really, die in our streets while people aggressively thwart the efforts of police an other first responders from rescuing them.”

Friends identify victim of fatal shooting

Friends identified the victim as 19-year-old Lorenzo Anderson. He was shot and killed just after 2:30 a.m. Saturday.

Seattle police body camera video shows the stiff resistance officers met as they tried to respond to the 911 calls.  It left Seattle fire medics waiting for the scene to be secured. It wasn’t. 

So they stayed put outside the CHOP zone to the consternation of those who were there.

Instead a mortally wounded Anderson and a 33-year-old critically injured man had to rely on the kindness of strangers to get to Harborview Medical Center.

Former nurse Alex Bennett happened to be near the CHOP zone when the shootings occurred. “I heard gunshots,” she said.

She joined CHOP's volunteer medics who drove one victim to the hospital with an unexpected police escort.

"And then when we got there, they were waiting for us, the medical team," said Bennett.

Then Sunday night there was another shooting. Another teen was shot in the arm.

“There are groups of individuals engaging in shootings, a rape, assault, burglary, arson and property destruction,” said Seattle police Chief Carmen Best.

That is why Best says the East Precinct will reopen. 

The precinct is also significant for the African American community. It was opened only after the first Black member of the Seattle City Council, Sam Smith, fought to open it to protect Capitol Hill and the Central District.

Neither Best nor the mayor said when the officers will return.

Watch full replays of Durkan and Best’s Monday news conference in the video players below:

RAW: Mayor Durkan news conference after weekend shootings in CHOP Zone
RAW: Chief Best news conference after weekend shootings in CHOP Zone

Earlier Monday, Durkan released the following statement on the shootings:

“Every day, thousands of individuals gather on Capitol Hill for peaceful demonstrations. After days of peaceful demonstrations, two nights of shootings have clearly escalated the situation on Capitol Hill. The Seattle Police Department is still conducting an investigation on the cause of the shootings and will be providing an update later today.

The Mayor and City staff have been meeting with small business owners, demonstrators, and residents on Capitol Hill. Based on those conversations and reports from City staff on the ground, it’s clear that the experience in and around Cal Anderson differs greatly between daytime and nighttime. We have been meeting with residents and small business owners to address their safety and disorder concerns, including the ability of first responders to access emergencies in the area.

Yesterday, the City worked with trusted messengers and de-escalators, led by Andre Taylor with Not This Time, to engage with many of the organizers. This work will continue and the City will be meeting with some of the organizers today on next steps. We believe there can be a peaceful resolution.

As many community groups are also urging, Mayor believes individuals can and should peacefully demonstrate, but the message cannot be lost in the violence. Today, City departments and outreach services will be on site updating individuals on the shootings. Later today, we will also be sharing the City’s plans for addressing significant nighttime public safety concerns and issues.”