That’s the hundreds-strong, standing-room-only crowd that jammed into South Park Community Center tonight to hear from Seattle Police leadership and Mayor Nickels, less than two days after a terrifying attack that left one woman dead and another seriously hurt: A man broke into their western South Park home – not far from West Seattle’s eastern edge (map) – and stabbed them while they slept, early Sunday morning. Flowers have been placed outside the home where it happened – we went by just before the meeting:
The same police who patrol West Seattle also handle South Park, so it was a familiar face, Southwest Precinct Captain Joe Kessler, who outlined how his team has responded and will continue to search for the killer:
Most importantly, as we showed you a little earlier tonight, police have just released a sketch of the man they are looking for, believed to have been a stranger to the victims. The description remains – per the SPDBlotter report – “a black male, 20s to early 30s, 5 feet 11 inches to 6 feet tall, thin muscular build, a thin moustache, and ‘nappy’ hair.” The victims have not been publicly identified — authorities say, “to protect their privacy” — but friends and neighbors have said they were a couple and, according to this Times story, about to be married. Police did allude to the victims being members of “a sexual minority” and as such say they have not ruled out the possibility this could have been a hate crime, though they do not have any evidence of that. Read on for more of what was said at the meeting:
First, here’s what the mayor said:
Later, about two dozen people spoke during the question/answer portion of the meeting – many expressing shock, but also saying they are heartened by the fact the community is coming together to help each other at a difficult time.
Assistant Chief Nick Metz opened the night saying that in 26 years of police work he had never been so shocked. He said that he was amazed how neighbors went “into harm’s way” to help the women who were attacked: “What you did selfless commitment and a commitment to your community and your fellow man. You came forward without any idea of the risk involved to help your fellow man.”
Acting Chief John Diaz cautioned that since this is an ongoing investigation, some questions would have to go unanswered. For the most part, though – no one asked a question that needed to go unanswered. Several voiced the opinion that 911 response to the neighborhood is not optimal; police say they responded to the call within four minutes, but a couple people questioned that. Some claimed they had called 911 before and not received responses for up to 45 minutes. Captain Kessler advised them to contact the precinct if that happens so that they can find out what went wrong.
A few people asked if it was possible to get more lighting around the community center field and in the alley between the community center and the street where the crime took place. Capt Kessler and the mayor said that they’d look into this with City Light.
Many who spoke said that this is an opportunity for the South Park community to come together. There was talk of having more get-acquainted-with-your-neighbor meetings at the community center and forming groups to learn self-defense techniques.
People said that while they felt terrorized, this was a time to get beyond that and reach out. Metz closed by saying that this is a necessary step and now was not the time to “draw the curtains and hole up in your house” – although, as you heard Captain Kessler say in the video clip, they do advise keeping your doors and windows closed for safety, even when the weather’s hot and you don’t have air conditioning.
Final words from SPD: “Anyone with information regarding this crime is urged to call our tip line at (206) 233-5000 or CrimeStoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS or text TIP486 with a message to CRIMES (274637).” (Or if you think it’s urgent – call 911.) *Note – the tip line is up and running around the clock.
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