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News / Northwest

Father of teen killed outside Garfield High School calls for justice

By Catalina Gaitán, The Seattle Times
Published: June 10, 2024, 7:32am

SEATTLE — The father of a high school student fatally shot outside Garfield High School on Thursday called for justice for his son, as a full day elapsed without Seattle police identifying his shooter.

Amarr Murphy, who was on the school’s varsity football team, was trying to break up a fight between two boys Thursday afternoon when one of them pulled out a gun and shot him multiple times in front of the Quincy Jones Performance Center, police said.

Murphy, 17, was rushed to Harborview Medical Center, where he died from his injuries.

His father, Arron Murphy-Paine, said the city and the school district failed his son.

“I want justice, that is all I got to say,” Murphy-Paine said in a phone call Friday. “Get the justice for everybody that failed my son when I took my son to school and he got killed at lunch.”

Murphy-Paine said he did not want to comment further until he spoke with his attorney.

A Facebook fan page for the Garfield football program posted a tribute to Murphy on Friday with a picture of the teen in his football uniform.

Seattle police have released few details about their investigation and said there were no updates to share when asked Friday afternoon about their search for the shooter or what they have learned about his identity.

The shooter is believed to be a teenage boy who was wearing a red jacket, light bluejeans and white sneakers at the time, police Deputy Chief Eric Barden said Thursday. He fled before police and paramedics arrived and found Murphy on the ground.

The shooting prompted a nearly three-hour lockdown at Garfield, stranding some students outside who had left campus for lunch and angering parents who have called on greater intervention to prevent gun violence at and near the school.

In March, a Garfield student was shot in the leg during a drive-by shooting while waiting for her bus outside the school, where students had to temporarily shelter in place. There was also a shooting outside the school in October and a string of nearby shootings last June that did not involve students but prompted increased security on campus.

At the opening of a garden space at Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park on Friday afternoon, Mayor Bruce Harrell said his office is planning to announce an investment in expanding school-based youth mental health resources next week. Friday was National Gun Violence Awareness Day, and the memorial garden is opening to replace the Black Lives Memorial Garden removed from Cal Anderson Park last year.

Harrell and others called on the power of community to resolve gun violence over focusing solely on policing-based resolutions. Harrell said Thursday that he had directed the Seattle police to enhance patrols near Garfield, his alma mater.

“We have to be motivated by love,” Harrell said. “That is the only answer.”

The mother of Elijah Lewis, a community activist shot and killed last year on Capitol Hill, said at the garden opening that she was “beyond articulating” how she was feeling.

“It’s going to take all of us to put down our own agendas and our motives and roll up our sleeves, and pour into these babies constructive ways to articulate how they feel, to decompress rather than to elevate,” Lewis said.

Later Friday, hundreds of people gathered on the Garfield High School football field, many embracing and wiping away tears as they remembered Murphy.

Murphy’s family, football teammates and community members lit candles spelling “Amarr” at the top of the field next to gold and black balloons — the colors of the Benson Bruins junior football team in Renton, which Murphy had played for. Some of Amarr’s teammates wrote messages on a poster like, “We miss you, lil cousin.”

Speaking to the crowd, Amarr’s pastor, Grace Temple’s Bishop J.E. Sears III, said of the boy, “To know him was to love him.”

Sears called on the community members gathered to be strong for the Murphy-Paine family and demand collective change.

Murphy’s “teammates are here right now today that he sweated with, that he worked hard with on the field, that knew him in the classroom, knew him in the hallway,” Sears said.

As the evening grew dark, Amarr’s mother spoke. “I love you all,” Sherrica Walker-McCall said. “My son is not present, so you guys will be my children.”

“My son is dead, but his legacy won’t be dead,” said Arron Murphy-Paine, who also graduated from Garfield.

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Interim police Chief Sue Rahr said Thursday that the department would “redouble” its efforts in the Central District to help students and families feel safe.

“Kids shouldn’t have to deal with this — it’s too much,” said Jeff Scott after reuniting with his daughter, a Garfield freshman, outside the school on Thursday. “I honestly don’t know what we do about it.”