Photo depicting various police vehicles outside Rainier Hookah Lounge building surrounded by yellow caution tape.

3 Dead, 6 Wounded in Weekend Shooting at South End Hookah Lounge

by Phil Manzano

More than 4,000 — that’s how many shell casings Seattle police have recovered from shooting incidents this year, as well as a record number of guns recovered, 869, even as the number of reported shootings have gone down.

Those numbers are the backdrop behind Sunday’s early morning shooting that left three dead and six wounded when gunfire broke out at the Rainier Hookah Lounge, according to Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz.

“The summer began with a disturbing trend of gun violence,” Diaz said at a press conference Sunday, Aug. 20. “We have seen a reduction in the number of shootings; however, the number of rounds that are being fired at each shooting is up.

“That’s why we’re seeing more victims,” Diaz said. “More bullets are being fired. … And that is the shocking part of this. We continue to see victims, we continue to see the violence. Just being at the scene earlier this morning, you see the families that are impacted by this violence. It’s unacceptable. It’s something that’s disturbing, and a trend that we’re seeing, but we’ve got to figure out ways to have it stopped.”

When the first police officers arrived at about 4:30 a.m. to the 2200 block of Rainier Avenue South, near South Walker Street, they found a 32-year-old man inside the Rainier Hookah Lounge, dead from gunshots, Diaz said.

Firefighters and medics arrived at about the same time and quickly declared it a mass casualty incident (MCI) because of the number of victims at the scene, Seattle Fire Chief Harold Scoggins said.

Shortly after arriving, the firefighters and paramedics got a 911 report of a gunshot victim several blocks away on 15th Avenue South with a gunshot wound to the head, Scoggins said. That person was brought back to the scene, where a triage system was in place.

Police and medics tried to revive a 22-year-old man, but he died at the scene, and a 30-year-old woman was taken to Harborview Medical Center in critical condition who later died, according to Scoggins and Diaz’s account of the shooting scene.

Scoggins said two men, aged 22 and 23, were taken by medics or ambulance to Harborview, and four others injured at the scene, a 22-year-old woman and three other men ranging in age from 21 to 38, arrived at Harborview on their own.

Diaz said officers from homicide, crime scene investigation, gun violence reduction unit, and community violence task force responded to the scene, and other officers were dispatched to Harborview to interview victims and witnesses. Seattle Fire sent 21 personnel, three engines, two medic units, and an aid car, along with AMR ambulances to manage the MCI.

Diaz said Sunday that five guns were recovered at the scene and officers were still trying to determine how and exactly where the shooting unfolded, whether inside or outside the lounge.

“We are still trying to figure out who was in possession of those guns, who was shooting, so it’s still yet to be determined,” Diaz said. “I would hate to think that, because it could very well be in these cases, that sometimes our victims could be part of the incident. But we still have yet to determine that yet.”

Diaz said the Seattle Police Department has been recovering more guns over the past several months, which is consistent with the number of guns being purchased and that gun violence is a national problem.

“To see the amount of guns we’re seeing on the street and people using them — we’re seeing an increase in road rage cases,” Diaz said. “So immediately, when somebody is confronted, we’re finding that conflict literally being [to] pull out a gun and being able to resolve it with a gun. And that is a concern.”

Police designated Sunday’s incident a mass shooting, as it involves four or more victims, and Mayor Bruce Harrell released a statement Sunday, saying, “No place in this country is free from the awful epidemic of gun violence, which once again reverberates here in Seattle — leaving at least three dead, another six injured, and countless family and neighbors to pick up the pieces in our beloved South Seattle community. My heart is with the victims and every person impacted.

“Mass shootings cannot be so commonplace that they are an acceptable summer weekend activity — not for people at social gathering spaces, not for people at the park, not for anyone anywhere.”

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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