(UPDATED 4:08 PM with new information about victim, how to help family, vigil planned)
9:46 AM: An update this morning from Seattle Police, one day after a 15-year-old boy was stabbed to death at Westcrest Park. Detectives now believe robbery was the motive for the killing. They’re not going into further details so far, and there’s no suspect information to share, but they wanted to get that information out as they “actively pursue leads,” and they are asking again for any and all potentially helpful information – you can call the tip line at 206-233-5000. As reported in our Tuesday coverage, the victim was found by passers-by after walking out of the woods on the south side of the park and collapsing near 6th SW/SW Cambridge. He was rushed to Harborview Medical Center, where he died.
4:08 PM: Thanks to the community member who sent this link for a just-established crowdfunding page for the family, on which the victim is identified as Derek Juarez-Lopez. His family has spoken with The Seattle Times; their story says he was an incoming Chief Sealth International High School sophomore, something we had been trying to get the district to confirm, while also asking if a letter would be sent to families. Classes started at CSIHS (and other Seattle Public Schools) today.
4:41 PM: Here’s the letter families have received from Chief Sealth’s principal Aida Fraser-Hammer – note that it mentions a vigil at the park tomorrow night:
There comes a time in the life of every community that events happen that are difficult, painful and outside the scope of our everyday activities in school. It saddens me to start the school year with the news that one of our incoming sophomores died unexpectedly yesterday. I have been in touch with the family to offer support and let them know the school community is thinking of them as they grieve the tragic loss of their son. I’m sending you this letter to update you on the facts, to assure you that we are doing everything we can to support our students, and to suggest ways you may help your children.
Yesterday, you may have heard about a stabbing in West Seattle. We were notified yesterday afternoon that one of our students, Derek Juarez Lopez, was the victim. Derek was going to be a 10th grader this year. When we talked with Derek’s family, they wanted us to know how much he loved his family, school and friends. They also let us know that he was particularly excited about starting the new school year at Chief Sealth and they gave permission to disclose his name so we could be the ones who informed our students and his friends.
Because this happened just yesterday, we all have more questions than answers. We are in close contact with the Seattle Police Department to ensure that we are aware of any new information. At this time, there are no known suspects. As we learn more we will share this information with our students.
When a classmate dies, it may trigger all kinds of expected and even unexpected reactions in our students, especially if the person who has died is a peer or close friend. Today, we brought in additional counseling resources and will continue to provide support as needed for students. . Our students have been demonstrating a great deal of compassion and kindness. I am very proud of how our staff, students and families are supporting each other.
Parents and guardians have important roles in helping students understand such tragic events. We have encouraged our students to talk with their families about their ideas, thoughts and beliefs. Please call us at 252-8550 if we can help in any way. We believe that it is important to understand and respect each child’s experience. We are also discussing personal safety and will continue to discuss this throughout the school year. Your family’s focus on student safety will help reinforce this message.
Our hearts and thoughts go to Derek’s family. The family plans to have a candlelight vigil at Westcrest Park tomorrow at 7:00 PM. As we learn of more ways to support them, we will let you know. Our community is close and having a tragedy such as this occur makes me realize what a wonderful school community we have at Chief Sealth International School. I want to share our staff’s appreciation of your support and patience during our time of grief.
A memorial for Derek is up now at the site where he was found yesterday morning, 6th and Cambridge:
Again, 206-233-5000 if you have any information that might be related to this crime.
THURSDAY UPDATE: We are now told the vigil information was incorrect.