by Phil Manzano
The blue awnings with tables and chairs stood in sharp contrast to the yellow police tape and the flashing red and blue lights of a multitude of police vehicles at the western corner of the Rainier Beach Safeway’s parking lot Friday night.
As they should. For the last few years the blue awnings would pop up on Friday nights at the Safeway and other street corners in the neighborhood as community workers gathered to strike a positive presence and hand out free food, build relationships and community, and in the process deter violence and crime.
At about 9 p.m. Friday night, two suspected shooters fired “dozens and dozens” of shots toward the blue awnings wounding five people, Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz said standing in front of cameras and reporters at the scene.
A woman and man in their 20s were transported in critical condition to Harborview Medical Center and two men, also in their 20s, were transported to Harborview in stable condition. A fifth man, in his 30s, was treated at the scene.
Diaz said police were looking for two shooters who fired shots from a parking lot adjacent to the Safeway parking lot, but they did not know yet what sparked the shooting. He asked that anyone with information call the Seattle Police tip line at 206-233-5000.
Shantel Patu, executive director and cofounder of Urban Family, said community organizations, including the Boys and Girls Club, provide a pop-up event for the community every Friday from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. in the Rainier Beach Safeway parking lot. As part of the safety initiative, she and other community workers responded to the scene Friday night to support the people and police there, and volunteers also provided support at the hospital to victims and their families.
The presence of community members at the pop-ups has helped curb violence tremendously, Patu said, but she was struggling with the fact that team members were victims, which is something that hasn’t happened before.
“It’s time for the community to do more,” she said. “We’re here, we’re doing all we can, the police are here, they’re doing all that they can. The City is providing resources. It’s time for us as residents and as community members to start looking at what’s in our homes, what our kids are getting access to, and pulling back the idea of what family means because our kids are running on a rampage and they’re destroying themselves and our community, because they’re so angry.
“And that starts at home. And we all have to do something. And so from a city standpoint, yes, we need more resources. But poverty is everywhere and until we address that, these kids are going to be angry because of it and so as a result, their suffering is being taken out in our community.”
Diaz said more work has to be done getting guns off the streets, even though police this year have recovered more guns than they have in any of the 15 years that they’ve tracked gun recoveries.
“And honestly, this is really disturbing when you have victims that are literally just trying to do an outreach effort, trying to help people out and get people on the right path,” Diaz said. “And this is what they end up getting hit with, this variety of different rounds, being fired at them.”
Mayor Bruce Harrell praised the police officers and community leaders at the scene for the work they’re doing to quell violence in the community and he called for more support for their work.
“In the face of this tragedy, we also see right now, our fine officers working with our fine community leaders right here,” Harrell said. “These community leaders are literally putting their lives on the line to protect their own community.
“This is a critical part of the city, one of the most diverse areas of the country. And it’s our responsibility to protect it and we cannot do it alone without our community leaders and the community partners.”
Saturday, District 2 Councilmember Tammy Morales said she responded to Harborview Friday night and planned to attend Saturday’s “Shifting the Narrative,” an event highlighting positive efforts in the South End.
“Last night, South End community leaders were hosting a beautiful community healing space in the Rainier Beach Safeway parking lot when dozens of shots were fired toward them,” Morales said in a statement.
“These young people, out of love for their neighborhood and community, were holding space with free food and music. This senseless shooting should have never happened.
“I drove to Harborview last night in complete shock. This tragedy has left us all in a devastated space.”
Morales said her office would be working toward “comprehensive and evidence-based solutions that will prevent such tragedies from recurring, while addressing the significant need for mental health resources to address the trauma of this event.”
Phil Manzano is a South Seattle writer, editor with more than 30 years of experience in daily journalism, and is the interim news editor for the Emerald.
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