by Agueda Pacheco Flores
Terrell Elmore remembers feeling terrorized. The youth football coach says gun shots that sounded like they were nearby interrupted a September game. As the shots popped off, everyone at Judkins Park began to flee and run for shelter.
“It was probably a block away,” Elmore says. “We didn’t know if they were shooting, we didn’t know the scenario or what was behind it, we didn’t know if they were coming, we just didn’t know; and come to find out after I … ran up to where I heard the shots … They had already fled the scene and some girl came down there and shot eight times in the air.”
As a result of the shooting, some parents pulled their kids from the CD Panthers team and now there’s more of a police presence at football games. Elmore said he’s thankful no one actually got shot, but that he doesn’t want this to become the norm for children in the South End.
“I’ve experienced shootings in the inner city,” he said. “When I was growing up, I saw somebody get shot and it’s something you just don’t want to pass on; that kind of trauma was one thing I didn’t want my kid to experience.”
New statistics from the King County’s Prosecuting Attorney’s Office show that gun violence has seen a drastic uptick in the South End and south King County area. From January to September 2021, the total number of shooting incidents increased by 48% compared to the four-year average between 2017 and 2020. During the same time span in 2021, there were also 73 fatal shooting victims which represents a 71% increase compared to the four-year average between 2017 and 2020.
“It’s happening too often where it’s becoming normal and you hear a lot of that shit of ‘Damn, again?’” said Elmore.
The majority of the data in King County Firearm Violence Report comes from the King County Sheriff’s Office as well as agencies in Seattle, Kent, Auburn, Des Moines, Federal Way, Renton, and Tukwila. Nearly 79% of the data comes from those eight agencies, although there are 20 agencies represented across the report.
The report comes at the heels of another effort by King County to reimagine public safety through an anonymous survey. The survey, which is available in Spanish, Somali, and Vietnamese, aims to focus on public safety from a race and equity angle. Results will help shape a funded alternative to the traditional police response.
While December is not included in the report, this month alone saw multiple shootings early on, with six cases reported within 27 hours (three of those were in the South End).
According to the report, “there have been 14 more fatal shooting victims and 86 more non-fatal shooting victims in 2021 as compared to the same time period in 2020.” And while the data shows a qualitative uptick, one thing hasn’t changed — who it impacts.
As it was in 2020, Black people continue to represent 50% of both fatal and non-fatal victims of shootings, per the report. Of the 356 shooting victims, People of Color in general represented 81% of them.
The data is hard for Gloria Hodge to stomach.
“It stresses me out,” she said.
As the director of Hoa Mai Vietnamese Bilingual Preschool, Hodge said she feels accountable to the families and children she serves, making sure that everyone is safe during playtime and pick-ups and drop-offs.
The preschool had a close encounter with a shooting this past June, but luckily everyone was indoors at the time. Hodges said she had left, but when the shooting occurred, she immediately returned.
“It’s very challenging and frustrating to have that experience as a program where children are safe and healthy and have access to quality care,” she said.
The preschool is located in Mt. Baker and the shooting occurred at the bus stop nearby. Since then, Hodge said businesses such as the Starbucks nearby shut down and never reopened, adding to a sense of abandonment.
“Some of the work [Starbucks] shares is toward racial and social justice, but it doesn’t make sense; they immediately closed their doors and when some of the community engaged with them they went silent on the community,” she said. “There needs to be accountability.”
Hodge said she’s reached out and been involved in conversations and meetings involving multiple community partners, including the Mt. Baker Mutual Aid group, elected officials, and nonprofits that are in similar situations as hers such as Wellspring and Treehouse.
“There’s a lot of time dedicated toward the cause of concern to see how we can succeed and be safe for children, families and communities,” she said.
Hodge said there’s more security in the area, including a 24/7 Sound Transit guard, but hopes that more is allocated to finding solutions.
“There needs to be allocation toward the root of why there’s so much gun violence in the area and work with those that are in need,” she said. “What is the root of the problem?”
Agueda Pacheco Flores is a journalist focusing on Latinx culture and Mexican American identity. Originally from Querétaro, Mexico, Pacheco Flores is inspired by her own bicultural upbringing as an undocumented immigrant and proud Washingtonian.
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