Saturday, September 24, 2022
Sept. 24, 2022

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Flurry of Seattle weekend shootings ‘unacceptable,’ Mayor Harrell says

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SEATTLE — After a weekend of relentless gun violence, Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell on Monday called the spate of shootings “unacceptable” and emphasized the importance of making Seattle “a city where safety is an inherent right.”

Between Friday and Sunday evenings, seven shootings in Seattle and Renton injured about a dozen people and killed one man, who was shot near Capitol Hill’s Cal Anderson Park. Among the wounded is a 14-year-old girl shot in the leg as more than 80 rounds were fired from around a bar near T-Mobile Park.

“We know that these kinds of tragedies are quite frankly just unacceptable in the city of Seattle and in this country,” Harrell said during a news conference, also reiterating his goal of increasing police presence and pressing for changes to statewide gun safety laws.

Five of the dozen people treated for gunshot wounds at Harborview Medical Center between Friday and Sunday remain in serious condition in the intensive care unit, said hospital spokesperson Susan Gregg.

Harborview’s gunshot victims — six males and six females — are between 14 and 34 years old.

The King County Medical Examiner’s Office, meanwhile, identified the man killed early Saturday near Cal Anderson Park as Mercer Roy and determined he died from multiple gunshot wounds.

A memorial across the street from the park’s basketball court has been set up to commemorate Roy, 32. Flowers, empty liquor bottles and a Nike shoe box surround candles spelling Roy’s name, and posters with pictures and heartfelt prayers are tied to a fence.

One message reads: “Rest in Paradise, love you, miss you.”

Roy is one of 36 people killed in Seattle homicides so far this year, according to preliminary data compiled by The Seattle Times with information from police, prosecutors and the King County Medical Examiner’s Office. All but six of those people died from gunshot wounds.

That puts Seattle on pace to far surpass in 2022 the number of homicides in the city last year, when 41 people were killed. The city’s 2021 figure was down from the 53 homicides committed in Seattle the year before.

Countywide, 42 people were killed and another 170 were injured as a result of gun violence through the end of June, according to the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Shots Fired Project. In 2021, 88 people were killed and 372 were injured by gunfire, up from the 69 people killed and 268 people injured the year before, according to the Shots Fired data.

Friday night was the busiest of the weekend for Harborview’s doctors, as additional trauma surgeons and two specialty surgeons were called in to treat gunshot patients, said Dr. Eileen Bulger, the hospital’s chief of trauma.

“It certainly adds to the stress on the system. It’s why we build the schedule the way we do and have people come in at a moment’s notice — it’s part of the job,” Bulger said.

Though doctors had enough blood on hand to treat this weekend’s gunshot patients, Bulger said a blood shortage that started with the COVID-19 pandemic has improved but isn’t totally resolved. And given that summer is always a busy time of year at the hospital, she encouraged people to roll up their sleeves and donate blood.

“We didn’t have any shortages this weekend, but sometimes it only takes one patient to create a shortage,” she said.

Bulger has not tallied the number of Harborview patients who have been treated for gunshot wounds so far this year. But in 2020 and 2021, the hospital saw a 30% increase in the number of patients treated for “penetrating trauma,” compared to the years before the pandemic, and Bulger sees that trend continuing this year.

She said that underscores the importance of the hospital’s gun violence intervention program, which connects gunshot victims with services and community resources while they’re still hospitalized. The program links patients with social workers, counseling, mentorship, job training and housing assistance in an attempt to keep them from being shot again — or picking up a gun and shooting someone else.

The goal is to help them cope with the consequences of their injuries, understand what put them at risk of being shot and work with their families to disrupt and break the cycle of violence, Bulger said.

Harrell on Monday again emphasized his approach to public safety: increasing police presence through hiring incentives, emphasizing the importance of community-based organizations and pressing for changes to Washington gun safety laws.

“The answers are pretty simple in nature,” he said. “We have too many guns out there and too many guns in the wrong hands.”

Harrell has proposed spending $2 million on recruiting and hiring incentives, in a push to add 500 officers to the police force. The City Council is expected to consider Harrell’s proposal this week.

Over the past decade, the number of sworn officers at SPD has dropped from around 1,300 from 2013-19 to under 1,000 in 2022, with more than 400 resignations and retirements since 2020. While SPD staffing has been fully funded in that time, the department has struggled to recruit quickly enough to keep up with attrition.

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