Saturday, July 29, 2006
By CAROL SMITH, PHUONG CAT LE AND AMY ROLPH
On the eve of the Jewish Sabbath, a 31-year-old man claiming he was upset about "what was going on in Israel" opened fire at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle building, killing one person and wounding five women, one of them pregnant.
Three of the women were in critical condition Friday night with gunshot wounds to the stomach.
The gunman, brandishing a large-caliber semi-automatic pistol, forced his way through the security door at the federation, on Third Avenue downtown, after an employee had punched in her security code.
"He said, 'I am a Muslim American, angry at Israel,' before opening fire on everyone," said Marla Meislin-Dietrich, a database coordinator for the center. "He was randomly shooting at everyone."
The man was booked into King County Jail at 10:38 p.m. as Naveed Afzal Haq on one count of investigation of homicide and five counts of investigation of attempted homicide, according to King County Jail records.
The man apparently was from the Tri-Cities area, and authorities there confirmed Friday night that they had visited two residences in the area and were preparing to go into a third with the assistance of the FBI. A bomb squad was standing by in Kennewick. Local media reported he had a misdemeanor lewd conduct charge pending in Benton County. He allegedly exposed himself in a public place.
The shootings come just weeks after Jewish leaders told Congress that there was a "critical threat" to their institutions nationwide because of escalating tensions in the Middle East.
The FBI has labeled the shootings a "hate crime" based on what the gunman told police in a 911 call.
"I feel sick to my stomach," said Becki Chandler, 35, who has been a volunteer for the Jewish Federation for seven years. She came to Harborview Medical Center as soon as she heard about the shootings. "It feels like a personal attack."
Police apprehended the lone gunman without incident at 4:15 p.m. after officers talked him out of the building.
The man was arrested at the corner of Third Avenue and Lenora Street, near the federation building.
"We believe ... it's a lone individual acting out his antagonism," said David Gomez, an FBI assistant special agent in charge of counterterrorism in Seattle.
In Seattle, FBI agent Fred Gutt said the agency sent out two generalized warnings to Washington law enforcement, on July 21 and on Wednesday, listing general scenarios to be alert for. Places of religious significance were mentioned, including mosques, synagogues and churches, but the warning was not specific, he said.
Gutt said the FBI is helping Seattle police assess whether the gunman was a "lone wolf" or part of a wider plan. If evidence of a terrorist plot evolved, the FBI would become the lead agency, but as of Friday night the case remained Seattle's, Gutt said.
Authorities did not release any details about the suspect and would not discuss possible motives.
In a news conference, police Chief Kerlikowske said the man was a U.S. citizen, but not from Seattle. His relatives were being contacted and interviewed.
"There's nothing to indicate that it's terrorism-related," Gomez said. "But we're monitoring the entire situation."
"This is a sad day in the city of Seattle," Mayor Greg Nickels said. "This is a crime of hate, and there's no place for that in Seattle."
The mayor and Kerlikowske said the city will be providing outreach assistance to the local Jewish community, and added patrols will be on duty to protect synagogues and other Jewish facilities.
Seattle mosques will also be protected by police as a safeguard against possible retaliation from outraged citizens.
Harborview spokeswoman Pamela Steele said five victims were taken to the hospital. "I've never seen such a swarm of people," Steele said of the scene as the victims and medics arrived at the trauma center.
The women ranged in age from the 20s to the 40s. Each suffered gunshot wounds to the abdomen, knee, groin or arm. Three were in surgery and in critical condition Friday night. Two were in satisfactory condition.
A hospital spokesman identified the pregnant woman as Dayna Klein. She was in satisfactory condition with a gunshot wound in her left forearm and was scheduled for surgery. Carol Goldman was in satisfactory condition with injuries to her knees.
Cheryl Stumbo, director of marketing and communications for the federation, also was identified as one of the victims and was in critical condition Friday night.
Kathryn Bush said Friday night that her daughter, Layla Bush, had been injured in the shooting.
"She's out of surgery, but that's all we know," she said in a call Friday night from her Florida home. "We're taking it moment by moment. I'm really in shock right now, but I'm trusting in the Lord to bring me through."
She said her daughter, 23, was "really bright" and always wanted to work for non-profits and foundations. She joined the federation as the office manager and receptionist about six months ago.
Police got the first 911 call of shots fired at the Jewish Federation at 4:03 p.m. Friday just as people were preparing to leave work for the weekend. About 10 people were left in the building. Witnesses said the shooter indicated he was acting because of Israel's actions in Lebanon.
The initial call authorities received reported the shots and a possible hostage situation, assistant Seattle police Chief Nick Metz said at an early evening news conference.
Witnesses to the shooting and people who work at the federation described a chaotic, terrifying scene.
Kami Knatt works at the federation's Holocaust center. As she exited the building, she saw a wounded co-worker fall down. Knatt took her sweater off and tried to stop the bleeding.
"I asked her, 'Are you OK?' She said, 'No, I've been shot.' I kept saying it's going to be OK."
The victim told Knatt: "I'm going to black out, I'm going to black out." Knatt replied: "You're going to be all right."
Several workers and victims ran toward a nearby Starbucks. There was a small pool of blood outside the coffee shop.
Nathaniel Mullins, 43, was turning onto Lenora Street with his 19-year-old daughter when he heard police say, "Get back! Get back!"
Mullins said he saw two shooting victims. "They were covered in blood," he said.
Rachel Hynes works in the building. "I was in the back of the building when I heard gunshots. It sounded like balloons, but they were really loud," she said. "I picked up my purse and I walked out of the building."
Zach Carstensen, who is the director of government relations for the Jewish Federation, said he heard shots and screams.
"People started running, and I started running with them," Carstensen said.
Asked whether he thought his office had been targeted because of the conflict in the Mideast, Carstensen said he wasn't sure. "We're all a little shaken, he said.
Jesse Black, general manager of Nyberg Locksmiths on Third Avenue diagonally across from the building, heard the shots and went to the sidewalk.
The cops yelled at him, "Get off the street because there's a sniper on the roof." He looked up and saw a figure in a white shirt on the rooftop.
Immediately after the shooting, a SWAT team searched the federation building for any other victims, anyone hiding or any other possible shooters, said police spokesman Rich Pruitt.
Police blocked off several city blocks to investigate. The suspect's vehicle was recovered near the shooting scene, Metz said. Police spent some time checking it for bombs before having it towed.
The federation issued a statement:
"Our federation colleagues so unmercifully and viciously attacked were spending their day as they normally do, providing for social and humanitarian services that benefited all of metropolitan Seattle. The hatred and violence visited upon them today offends the values that drove their work and passion for improving their neighbors' lives."
Early in July, Jewish non-profit organizations received more than half the federal homeland security grants to "harden" such "at-risk" non-profit groups against terrorist threats. Jewish groups received about $14 million of $25 million earmarked by Congress in 2005.
The federation building is known for its security, with gates and buzzers. Jacobs said the federation has an electronic security system that allows it to control access to the office. The shooter could not have simply entered the building unseen, said Anti-Defamation League leader Robert Jacobs.
The Muslim community in the region watched in horror as news broke of the shooting.
"We categorically condemn this and any similar acts of violence," the Council on American-Islamic Relations said in a joint statement with the Ithna-Ashari Muslim Association of the Northwest, the Muslim Association of Puget Sound, the Islamic Educational Center of Seattle, American Muslims of Puget Sound and the Arab American Community Coalition.
"We pray for the safety and health of those injured and offer our heartfelt condolences to the family of the victims of this attack. ... We refuse to see the violence in the Middle East spill over to our cities and neighborhoods. We reject and categorically condemn any attacks against the Jewish community and stand in solidarity with the Jewish Federation in this tragedy."
The Seattle City Council issued a statement Friday offering its condolences to the victims and their families.
"There is too much hate and violence in the world and we do not wish to bring it to Seattle," said council President Nick Licata in the statement.
Just hours before the shooting, Jacobs ate lunch with shooting victim Dayna Klein.
"She's just a wonderful, ebullient, energetic person," said Jacobs, ADL's Pacific Northwest regional director. "She heads up major gifts and development for the federation."
He called shooting victim Cheryl Stumbo, a non-Jewish Unitarian, "a warm, good human being. She really brought a tremendous understanding of marketing to the federation."
Iantha Sidell, past board chairman of the federation, went to Harborview after the shootings to lend her support.
"This is just a disaster," she said. "We value every life. I don't know what we're going to do about it. We believe in life."
P-I reporters Brad Wong, John Iwasaki, Mike Barber, Kathy Mulady, Dan Richman and photographer Mike Urban contributed to this report. This report also contains material from The Associated Press.