West Seattle, Washington
7:40 PM: Thanks for the texts. Guardian One was circling South Delridge/White Center for a while earlier this evening; just as we were headed out to look on the ground for any signs of a related response, the online flight tracker showed that the helicopter moved on. Then Mike saved the day by tweeting that he’d seen a sizable response in the O’Reilly Auto Parts lot at 17th/Roxbury. We were able to talk briefly to a King County Sheriff’s Office sergeant there; he told us they’re looking for a “fugitive” but would not elaborate further, aside from confirming that the helicopter presence was indeed related. We’re trying to find out more and will update if we do.
9:09 PM: KCSO spokesperson Sgt. Ryan Abbott says the person they were seeking is “a homicide suspect wanted out of Seattle.”
This past Thursday night, in the 7-8 pm vicinity, a helicopter hovered very high over south West Seattle for a very long time. We received multiple texts asking about it – mostly from Westwood and Fauntleroy – and saw/heard it ourselves. Nothing showed on flight trackers, and various other inquiries went nowhere, so beyond a mention on Twitter, we didn’t write about it. But we kept checking around the next day, including with a regional FAA spokesperson, who told us today that the best he could find out was “this was some sort of law-enforcement operation.” Not local – we re-checked with the King County Sheriff’s Office, which operates the only law-enforcement helicopters in our area, and KCSO confirmed Guardian One wasn’t up at all Thursday night. The State Patrol operates fixed-wing aircraft, so it wasn’t them either.
Sorry that took a while to sleuth – we had to drive over and look around for an officer on the ground to find out why the Guardian One helicopter was over Arbor Heights. They were looking for a domestic-violence suspect in connection with a protection-order violation.
2:25 PM: We are at Walt Hundley Playfield in High Point, where an Airlift Northwest medical helicopter has just landed for the second day of West Seattle drills with SFD.
It’s the same thing they did at Alki yesterday – but the weather’s worse. Updates to come.
2:50 PM: Helicopter has departed. 2 more drills – 2 pm tomorrow at Alki, Thursday at Walt Hundley. Spectators welcome, around the edges of the field.
ADDED 8:41 PM: More photos/video, with a closer look at the helicopter:
Firefighters had a training class before they came to the field for the drill.
SFD has said, air transfers are likely to be very rare if they happen at all- but in case of, say, a total transportation logjam at peak hour, without the West Seattle Bridge, the option needs to be available, and they need to be ready to assist.
Airlift Northwest offers memberships; we asked spokesperson Stephen LeMay about them. “Airlift Northwest membership works with insurance carriers to offset any remaining balance on an aeromedical bill, which can be very expensive. Patients with a membership will *not* receive a bill for their transport, or any services provided during the transport. Membership is *not* required to be eligible for transport. We will fly any patient in need to any hospital regardless of membership or payor status. Airlift Northwest provides over $2 million in charity care every year.”
2:32 PM: As previewed – the Seattle Fire/Airlift NW drill is under way at Alki Playfield, first of 4 drills in West Seattle this week.
2:41 PM: The helicopter has lifted off. Next drill, 2 pm tomorrow at Walt Hundley Playfield in High Point. Viewing was OK today *around the edges of the field* so it should be tomorrow too.
ADDED 5:31 PM: More details, photos, and video:
Airlift Northwest (corrected) has a base in Bremerton – its helicopter can get here in as little as six minutes and carries trauma nurses as well as blood and plasma.
SFD plans to use the four drills – continuing 2 pm Tuesday and Thursday at Walt Hundley, back at Alki 2 pm Wednesday – for different local SFD crews to practice a helicopter transfer. Deputy Chief Ron Mondragon talked about it after today’s drill:
The helicopter was on the ground less than half an hour (longer, though, than it would have taken for an actual patient transfer).
SFD stresses that this kind of transport is expected to be rare – if it’s required at all – but they need to be ready just in case.
In case you missed our report Thursday night – here’s a reminder that Seattle Fire plans drills each of the next four afternoons to test landing a medical-airlift helicopter at local playfields to practice patient transfers that might occasionally be needed because of “extreme circumstances” during peak travel times. SFD is NOT inviting spectators but has been circulating notices so people nearby aren’t startled. The times are 2-3 pm each day at these locations:
June 8: Alki Playfield – 5817 SW Lander St.
June 9: Walt Hundley Playfield – 6920 34th Ave. SW
June 10: Alki Playfield – 5817 SW Lander St.
June 11: Walt Hundley Playfield – 6920 34th Ave. SW
It’ll be an unusual sight at Alki Playfield (above) and Walt Hundley Playfield during four afternoons next week when a helicopter lands for an emergency drill. The Seattle Fire Department has notified people near both fields about the plan, and one resident let us know about it – we’ve subsequently obtained from SFD the letter they are circulating:
The Seattle Fire Department is partnering with Airlift NW and Seattle Parks to provide airlift transport of patients during the West Seattle Bridge closure under extreme circumstances. This is occurring in response to the anticipated traffic impacts during peak travel times, which could delay SFD’s ability to provide transport via the typical method of a medic unit for critical patients. The frequency of helicopter transports is expected to be very low (only a few times per year, if any) but is an added capability of the fire department to serve West Seattle residents. Additionally, as previously announced, the department is dedicating an extra medic unit (Medic 26) and ladder truck (Ladder 13) during the bridge closure.
To prepare for this added helicopter capability, the department is holding a drill at the Alki and Walt Hundley Playfields in early June. From 2-3 p.m. at the below dates and locations, neighbors in the area will hear and see a helicopter land at the playfield, and firefighters simulate a patient transport hand-off.
• June 8: Alki Playfield – 5817 SW Lander St.
• June 9: Walt Hundley Playfield – 6920 34th Ave. SW
• June 10: Alki Playfield – 5817 SW Lander St.
• June 11: Walt Hundley Playfield – 6920 34th Ave. SW
The site will be secured by Seattle Fire and Police personnel. To adhere to social distancing guidelines, the fire department encourages residents to not gather at the site, but instead watch the activities from the livestream on Facebook on the first day of the drill June 8, or from your doorstep.
As we reported earlier this week, the added SFD units mentioned above are now on duty. Meantime, SFD tells us they’ll have more to say about the helicopter drill plan tomorrow.
10:55 PM: SFD and SPD are responding to the 4800 block of Erskine Way for a report of a 20-year-old man with a gunshot wound. No other details yet.
11:03 PM: Police report being told this was the result of some kind of altercation/confrontation. The victim is being taken to the hospital.
11:12 PM: Police are looking for a suspect, described only, so far, as a “white male with a shaved head.”
11:27 PM: The Guardian One helicopter is assisting with the search.
11:42 PM: The search is ranging over a fairly wide area. Meantime, police are checking security video at the 7-11 to see if it has anything that’ll help.
11:54 PM: The victim was in serious condition when transported, SFD spokesperson David Cuerpo tells WSB. He also says the victim is 32, which is a change from the original radio exchange describing him as 20.
1:08 PM THURSDAY: Our inquiry to SPD has been answered by this SPD Blotter post, but the only new info is that the suspect is still out there somewhere:
At approximately 10:45 PM, officers responded to a report of shots fired in the 4800 block of Erskine Way SW. When they arrived they found the victim in a parking lot, with a gunshot wound to his chest. Officers immediately performed first aid until they were relieved by the Seattle Fire Department medics, who transported the victim to Harborview Medical Center.
Officers interviewed witnesses at the scene who stated that it appeared that the victim and another man were in an argument just prior to the shooting. The suspect fled. A K-9 team responded and attempted a track, but the suspect was not located.
10:23 PM: Though this ss NOT related to a helicopter some reported hearing over the Admiral area a bit earlier, the Guardian 1 helicopter is currently over Highland Park/Puget Ridge, helping police track a suspect who is reported to be wanted for eluding. (The helicopter’s track before this was in south King County, so the Admiral reports remain a mystery.)
10:30 PM: According to radio exchanges, this all started in Kent. The search has now moved on to Westwood, where police have converged on a reportedly related vehicle.
10:42 PM: Kent Police are reported to be on the way too, and a possible hit-run crash along the way on Puget Ridge is factoring into all this too.
11:02 PM: One clarification in the Guardian One crew’s post-departure tweet – they report the suspect “abandoned [the first] car in West Seattle and got into another car.”
ADDED THURSDAY AFTERNOON: We asked Kent PD for more details, and Cmdr. Robert Hollis replied:
Around 2200 hours on 05/20/2020, a on-duty Kent Officer noticed a red vehicle driving at a high rate of speed eastbound in the 10200 block of SE 240th St. The officer was able to catch up with the vehicle and when he activated his lights and siren, the suspect vehicle started driving away at a high rate of speed. Officers pursued the vehicle until speeds became too great and stopped pursuing the vehicle. Because King County Guardian One was up and following the vehicle, officers determined they could stop and locate the suspect at a later time. … Our officer did take the suspect into custody for Eluding.
9:45 PM: If you’re noticing the law-enforcement helicopter Guardian One over the Highland Park Way hill, here’s what’s going on: Police are searching for a “felony warrant suspect” last seen near HP Way and West Marginal Way SW, and asked if the helicopter could help. We don’t know the suspect’s name, description, or warrant details.
10:04 PM: Suspect in custody. We’ll follow up tomorrow to see if we can find out who he is and what the warrant’s for. (added) Officers just told the helicopter crew it was a warrant for robbery.
11:39 PM: Guardian One has published video of the search and arrest:
Medics were called for the suspect after he was in custody, and the video appears to show why.
ADDED FRIDAY: The suspect is 41 years old and wanted in Kansas.
6:49 PM: Police are searching for two suspects in a reported street robbery near the Delridge Library (5423 Delridge Way SW), and the Guardian One helicopter is on the way to join them. The victim told police his phone was stolen and that the suspects are male – possbly armed – and female. No other details so far.
6:54 PM: The search is ending, per radio exchange, because the person who reported their phone was taken does not want to pursue it as a criminal case after all.
6:12 PM: SPD’s Twitter log indicates the call was in the 10400 block of Maplewood Place.
Lots of questions about the helicopter activity over The Junction. As we’ve answered everyone who messaged us, it’s just TV, checking out the anti-war demonstration (which we previewed here last night). So far not the size of last month’s pro-impeachment rally but participants are following the same pattern as that one, walking with the light in the Walk-All-Ways crosswalk at California/Alaska, so no traffic impacts.
7:06 PM: We’re getting some questions about Guardian One over North Delridge. They’re backing up SPD as they check out a suspicious car pulled over at Delridge/Andover.
7:20 PM: The scene cleared before we arrived.
7:41 PM: Guardian One made note of its assistance via Twitter:
— KCSOAirsupport (@KCSOAirsupport) December 4, 2019
Took a while to get the details on this but for everyone who asked why the Guardian One helicopter was looping over White Center and South Delridge for a while – it was part of a search for someone who robbed an employee of Proletariat Pizza (9622 16th SW) in the alley behind the business, says King County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Sgt. Ryan Abbott. He says a robber armed with a handgun took the employee’s wallet and cell phone “and fled northbound into Seattle on a bike.”
It’s gone now, but lots of texts about a helicopter over south West Seattle, with nothing showing on radar, so we had to set out on the ground to sleuth it. Found a police officer who explained it was indeed Guardian One, helping search after a report of a possible burglary in the 8800 block of 8th SW. The report eventually turned out to be unfounded. (G-1 tweeted that they had been helping the South Precinct, which led to some further confusion, but it was Southwest Precinct after all.)
2:50 PM: With the Fauntleroy-Vashon-Southworth run still down to two boats (Issaquah‘s been out with steering trouble since this morning), and the holiday getaway beginning, there’s a huge vehicle backup headed toward the dock – all the way to California/Fauntleroy, per both police and texters. WSF estimates the wait at 2 1/2 hours. The run is continuing to stay on the 3-boat schedule but all trips that would be the #2 boat are canceled TFN.
3:36 PM: Some good news – the Issaquah has just gone back into service, so the run is back to three boats.
5 PM: For everybody starting to call/text about the helicopter, just a TV chopper checking out the ferry traffic.
Thanks for the inquiries about the helicopters over the north end of the Duwamish River. They were TV choppers checking out an incident about which we have just obtained information. A spokesperson for Matson tells WSB:
Two shipping containers – both empty – were knocked into the water this afternoon at Port of Seattle T-5 during discharge (unloading) of our vessel Mahimahi.
No injuries and no reports of damage. We’re working on recovering the containers now. Vessel operations/schedule were unaffected and apparently no impact on waterway navigation / harbor ops.
Matson moved its weekly Seattle calls to T-5 back in April as an interim tenant while the terminal modernization project gets going. (Speaking of which, tomorrow is the Jack Block Park open house for info about the project, 9:30-11:30 am Saturday.)
10:11 PM: Guardian One has been helping with a police search just north of The Triangle. One person is reported to be in custody but we don’t yet know what led to the search.
10:40 PM: Still trying to find officer(s) on the ground to ask. We’ve found police cars but no officers in sight.
10:45 PM: Talked to an officer. He said this was called in as an attempted burglary. (When we first heard radio exchanges, police were pursuing a suspect through yards, then took someone into custody.)
Thanks to Byron and Marty for the tips and photos. We’ve confirmed with Washington State Ferries what citywide media first reported: A helicopter search in Elliott Bay followed a ferry apparently striking a whale. A WSF spokesperson tells us it happened just a few minutes after the M/V Wenatchee’s departure from downtown, bound for Bainbridge Island. Passengers saw what they believed was a gray whale surface just a few feet from the bow – too close for the ferry to avoid hitting it. The spokesperson says as far as she knows, no one felt the collision – the witnesses got word to the crew. The ferry continued on to Bainbridge Island; the U.S. Coast Guard searched for the whale, which wasn’t seen again:
The WSF spokesperson says the USCG thinks it might have spotted something near Pier 66 but darkness has complicated the search. No whales – gray or otherwise – had been reported in the area earlier, so that’s made this a bit of a mystery. WSF has, meantime, also notified NOAA.
11:45 PM: If you hear the Guardian One law-enforcement helicopter over Highland Park/Riverview and/or see police on the ground, here’s what the search is about, per radio dispatch: 911 got reports of possible gunfire, heard near 12th/Holden, followed by a potentially related hit and run, and someone seen running eastbound in an alley south of Holden. Guardian One heard the dispatch and offered to help. No injuries reported.
11:57 PM: Though the helicopter has moved on for now, police are blocking part of SW Holden as they investigate.
12:05 AM: A texter sent this photo:
12:10 PM: Police are reopening SW Holden.
8:51 PM: Police are investigating gunfire in The Junction. First they got a report three men were seen “firing a gun” near 44th/Edmunds; now they’re investigating gunshot damage reported to a car. One suspect is reported to have been seen running north on 44th. More to come.
8:56 PM: Police have found a gun in a dumpster behind the west side of the 4700 block of California after a tip. … Now there’s a report one person might be injured “by shrapnel.” Also, Guardian One is helping with the search, and police say they’ve found shell casings. … Police have been told that some suspects might have left the area in a “gray sedan with a burned-out headlight.” They’re also going to block traffic at California/Edmunds.
9:08 PM: Police have told dispatch they’ve found “nine .40 millimeter casings” so far.
9:15 PM: A K9 team is helping search.
9:29 PM: Our crew says police are about to reopen the streets. The air and K9 searches have both dead-ended.
10:21 PM: No further information so far. We’ll be requesting the incident report tomorrow.
ADDED 12:24 PM FRIDAY: Here’s what we’ve learned from police: A 17-year-old saw a car circling his Junction-area house with occupants he suspected were involved in a recent robbery of a relative. He went out and drove after them. He then noticed “a group of males” standing on the corner of 44th/Edmunds and he said someone in that group fired at the car – he reported seeing the muzzle flash, though not the gun, and said bullets hit the driver-side door. Police later found four bullet holes in that door, and nine shell casings in the street at 44th/Edmunds. The group ran northbound; he described them as “five to eight high-school-aged black males, 5’10” to 6″, all but one wearing black hoodies.” He said he suspected they were associated with the vehicle he had been following, described as “a silver sedan with a left taillight out.” A nearby resident, meantime, reported seeing “three or four males” running in the alley between California and 44th; while that witness had no further description information, they saw someone throw something under a dumpster, and that’s where police subsequently found a semi-automatic handgun. A records check showed the gun had been reported stolen in Tacoma. SFD tells us the teen was treated by medics but did not require hospitalization.
12:28 PM:Thanks for the tips. According to the flight tracker, that helicopter over Westwood, Gatewood, and vicinity is registered to the Department of Homeland Security. We’re looking around on the ground and researching further. The tracker now shows it heading north (added) and then south again.
12:39 PM: Adding a screengrab from FlightRadar24 showing part of the circling it’s done. It’s close to our HQ east of Lincoln Park currently. The tracker shows it started its trip up in Arlington.
12:55 PM: Added a photo. While DHS has a variety of agencies under its wing, the FlightRadar24 page for this helicopter has a closeup shot that shows a Customs and Border Protection logo. (Added – We got a better picture from its flyover. Substituted above. Same logo.)
1:17 PM: Looking for someone to ask about this, but in the meantime, the Customs website has a one-sheet that says this type of aircraft is usually used:
“… to perform missions such as aerial patrol and surveillance of stationary or moving targets. These LEHs are the optimal aerial surveillance platform in metropolitan areas because their vertical lift capability and maneuverability enable operations from off-airport sites and in close proximity to congested airports.
Electro-optical/infrared sensors and video downlink provide intelligence and communications support that enhance officer safety during high-risk operations and increase covertness during surveillance operations.
Video recorders document suspect activities for evidentiary use. The AS350s often fly with a crew of two (pilot and observer).”
1:52 PM: After looping around the north half of the peninsula a while, the helicopter is no longer shown on the tracker. Meantime, our inquiry to the CBP media contact for this region drew an auto-reply saying he’s out of the office because of the federal government funding lapse (aka “shutdown”).