In Press Conference, Durkan, Best Focus on Just Two of Three Shootings That Happened Over the Weekend

by Carolyn Bick

Joined by several community leaders, Mayor Jenny Durkan and Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best addressed two weekend shootings that claimed the life of a 19-year-old Black teen and wounded two others in the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP).

In the June 22 press conference, Durkan and Best committed to working with different Black-led community organizations, including Community Passageways and Not This Time. Durkan said that she will be introducing a 2020 budget rebalancing plan that will make a point to invest in the Black community, in order to enhance public safety. In the name of both equity and public safety, Durkan also committed $5 million for mentoring and summer learning for Black youth.

She also said that police officers responded to almost 17,000 emergency calls within the last nine months, and that her budget process will examine the police budget. She said that police only respond “because the other systems in society have failed,” and that what the city needs is for certain services, like mental health workers or community-based workers, to be available to respond to some emergency calls.

Durkan also referenced shootings in other parts of the country, including in New Orleans, North Carolina, and Minnesota.

But neither Durkan nor Best even briefly addressed a third shooting that happened in the wee hours of Monday morning, despite its reference in the press conference invite sent out to reporters ahead of the meeting. This shooting happened in South Seattle — home to much of the city’s Black community — and was the third in two months.

According to the limited details released by the Seattle Police Department in the afternoon — after the press conference invite had been sent out — the South Seattle shooting happened in the 6700 block of Rainier Avenue South in the Brighton neighborhood. A 25-year-old woman told police she was standing outside a car, when a group of young men approached the car. One of these men shot into it, wounding a 20-year-old man sitting inside, as well as the woman, who was wounded by shattered glass. The release said Seattle Fire Department medics took the young man to Harborview Medical Center for treatment.

Last month, 18-year-old Conner Dassa-Holland was killed in a random shooting outside his home on Mother’s Day. About two weeks later, over Memorial Day Weekend, two young men were killed in the parking lot of the Rainier Beach Safeway. 

In the latter case, the detective responsible for briefing the press had not told a young woman who had been asking for information that both young men had died. When she overheard both young men had died, she broke down.

The most recent information immediately available from SPD shows that police arrested an 18-year-old in connection with the shooting in the Rainier Beach Safeway Parking lot. The most recent information immediately available shows that the investigation into the shooting of Dassa-Holland is ongoing.

The gun violence that killed these three young men did not get press conferences.

In response to a question from the Emerald as to why she had not before so publicly committed to working with Black-led organizations, following shootings in South Seattle, Durkan only said that “it has been a priority of mine since becoming mayor.”

“We have held a number of forums and meetings with community-based organizations in South Seattle to talk about not just youth violence, but youth opportunity, and how we break that cycle,” Durkan said. “That’s why last year’s budget invested more money than ever before in restorative justice and intervention programs.”

She did not address the lack of a similar amount of vocal support, following May’s shootings, and neither she nor Best addressed the most recent shooting in the Brighton Neighborhood on Monday morning, despite its reference in the Emerald’s question. In Durkan’s tweet released after the press conference, there was still no mention of Monday morning’s shooting.

The Emerald has sent follow-up questions to the Mayor’s Office and reached out to SPD, and will update this story, if more information becomes available.

Carolyn Bick is a journalist and photographer based in South Seattle. You can reach them here and here.

Featured image: Durkan addresses a crowd. (Photo: Alex Garland)