West Seattle has seen three confirmed gunfire incidents in the past four days. The first one, early Saturday in The Triangle, didn’t leave anyone with gunshot wounds, but did raise other issues, and we followed up.
First – the police report, with more details on what officers were told happened.
As neighbors reported that night, it happened as an event was breaking up at the American Legion Post 160 hall at 37th and Alaska. The report indicates police had to sort out a chaotic scene – they found shell casings in the street, and witnesses saying people in two cars were involved. Meantime, two people reported non-gunshot injuries from some kind of clash with event security.
The event organizer told police they were just starting to close it down when the gunfire happened outside, and people scattered. Security guards said they were trying to get everyone out of the building in a calm and orderly way, but one person insisted on going back inside, and a fistfight reportedly ensued between attendees and security. No one wanted to press charges in that. Police continued investigating, but the vehicles involved in the gunfire were long gone, with some witnesses saying it might have been a black Dodge Ram truck and a black-and-white Ford Mustang.
Neighbors say they have been complaining about events at Post 160 but not getting traction. We have subsequently communicated via email with Post 160 Commander Keith Hughes. The building is also home to the West Seattle Veterans’ Center. He said he spent a lot of time on the phone the next day with SPD “and other city departments” because of the incident. He described the event as a “live concert” in which “the promoter did not do a good job at keeping the attendee list under control.” He says the hall has had four events in the past 10 weeks and refutes neighbors’ noise complaints: “I have a db Meter program on my phone and I have checked the noise level at the sidewalk in front of the Hall, it has never exceeded 65 db, which is the City’s noise level ordinance. Any time I have gotten a reading above 60, I have asked the performers to turn down the sound system and they have complied. There was also an 8-member Security Staff who strictly enforced the mask-wearing and hand-sanitizing requirements.”
Live entertainment, however, has been against state rules for months. Hughes says he “took a chance, bent the rules, and rented the building” because that’s the only source of income to pay bills “that have been stacking up since I had to quit renting back in February.” Besides the Veterans Center, the building also houses “a Cold Weather Shelter during the winter so homeless people don’t freeze to death or starve on West Seattle streets. This is a free service I provide, but it is not ‘free’ for me. There is food to buy, cots and blankets to provide and to wash between uses, and huge increases in the utility bills. Renting the hall out is my primary source of funds to carry out this work. I have received some greatly appreciated donations to help with the shelter, but food donations don’t pay the utility bills or the building insurance or the state, county, or city taxes.”
But, he says, “That is all over now. No, there will not be any more music events at the Legion Hall.”