State patrol investigating shooting on I-5 express lanes near elementary school

SEATTLE — Two men were shot along the Interstate 5 southbound express lanes Friday morning.

Firefighters were called to the scene near Northeast 45th Street in Seattle’s University District at 6:49 a.m. after someone driving by heard gunshots and reported a person was hit, the Washington State Patrol confirmed.

When troopers arrived at the scene, they found a man who had been shot in the leg. Shortly after, investigators found another victim who had been shot in the hand in a homeless encampment under the I-5 ramps, WSP Trooper Rick Johnson said. Both victims were taken to Harborview Medical Center with injuries that were not life-threatening.

On one side of the camp is the U-District, and on the other side of the camp is John Stanford International, an elementary school.

People who work in the area say beyond snarling traffic for hours, they’re worried for the kids.

“That makes me feel uncomfortable next to the school,” said Lucy Wright, a University of Washington student who also works at the school. “It’s become increasingly unsafe and it’s not unexpected that there would be a shooting,” she said.

“There’s been more violent activity around here for sure, and it’s definitely a little unsafe,” said Darius Ochoa, who regularly passes through the area.

KIRO7 asked the Washington State Department of Transportation if there’s outreach happening at the camp. A spokesperson said in an email, “The King County Regional Homelessness Authority is actively working to connect with people living at this location and others.”

The state launched a “Right of Way Safety Initiative” this spring and acquired funding to specifically address camps along or under highways.

WSDOT said crews have provided services to and cleared out five highway camps in the past few months, three in King County and two in Thurston County.

In a blog post published after the shooting incident, WSDOT said, “This work doesn’t happen overnight, but we are looking forward to making more progress in the coming months which will help bring people inside as well as remove the safety risks from encampments on rights of way.”

Neighbors hope that help comes soon.

“It’s just getting to a point where it’s spilling over everywhere,” Ochoa said.

Washington State Patrol investigators said they are unsure if the victims were associated with the encampment, and there are still a number of unanswered questions.

“The detectives are still trying to figure out where the shots were fired, where they came from. We really want anyone that was in the area at the time that has additional information to give us a call so we can follow up on that,” said Johnson.

At one point, two of the three express lanes at the scene were blocked during the investigation. All lanes were reopened by 9:19 a.m.

Johnson said troopers have not found any weapons and he believes no cars were involved, but said the investigation is still in the early stages.

The next step is to interview those who reported the incident and continue to search the scene.

Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to call the Washington State Patrol at 425-401-7788.

This story is developing.