Gunman kills 6, himself in Seattle

Two hospitalized, one serious, one critical

no motive known for attack at house party

March 26, 2006|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

SEATTLE --A gunman fatally shot six people at a private house party yesterday morning before committing suicide, in the worst mass murder in this city in more than two decades, the Seattle police said.

About 7 a.m., homeowners on a quiet street in the Capitol Hill neighborhood heard gunshots and called the police to a small, two-story home just a half-block from a middle school. An officer on patrol arrived a few minutes later and spotted the gunman standing outside the house with a shotgun. One partygoer was fleeing through a window, another through a door.

The officer ordered the gunman to drop his weapon, but the man quickly turned the gun on himself, said Sgt. Deanna Nollette, a spokeswoman for the Seattle Police Department. Neither the gunman nor the victims were immediately identified.

Five victims were found dead inside the house or on the porch, and a sixth died in the operating room at a local hospital, officials said. Two people were still hospitalized, one in serious condition and the other critical, yesterday afternoon, said Carolyn Hernandez, the nursing supervisor at Harborview Medical Center.

Shootings are relatively rare in Seattle, and the city's police chief, R. Gil Kerlikowske, described the killings as "one of the largest crime scenes the city has ever had."

A motive for the shootings was not determined, but witnesses told police that the man had attended the house party, left and returned with a gun while the party was under way, Nollette said. The police would not say whether drugs were found at the scene.

Two partygoers told The Seattle Times that they had locked themselves in an upstairs bathroom after hearing gunshots and screams. They were not hurt, even though the gunman fired a bullet through the bathroom door.

Neighbors, who heard the shots and watched events unfold from their windows, described the partygoers as men and women in their late teens and 20s who wore dark clothing and had brightly dyed hair, piercings on their faces, and faces painted with red and white marks. They said several young people moved into the house in the past months and often held late-night parties there.

Some people at the party, including the apparent owner of the house, attended a Friday night electronic-music concert called "Better Off Undead" in a local artspace, said Annika Anderson, the concert's promoter. The concert ended at 4 a.m. and some ticket holders, dressed as "zombies," moved on to party at the house where the killings occurred, said Anderson.

She was worried that their deaths would reflect badly on young people who enjoy "rave" style music. "I'm completely devastated," Anderson said in a telephone interview. But "you can't hold a subculture liable for one person's actions."

Charles Jackson, 67, heard more than a half-dozen gunshots as he was getting up to brush his teeth. As his wife called 911, he rushed into the street and saw several partygoers dash away from the house.

Jackson said he never imagined such a thing could happen on his street. "All the neighbors know each other," he said. "We have block parties and stuff like that."

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