KENT, Wash. – Police now acknowledge 13 people were injured by gunfire in a pair of shootings Saturday, and acknowledge gang violence is to blame.
The initial shooting happened at a “lowrider” car show, on Pacific Highway South. Police say nearly 500 people were in attendance, when witnesses say two rival groups started arguing at the show, triggering the gunfight. A dozen people were injured by the gunfire, and scramble for safety.
Kent Police Chief Ken Thomas says he has “12 detectives working around the clock” to solve the crime, and surveillance video from the scene has been helpful.
He also acknowledges there was a likely “retaliatory” shooting at an apartment complex on Kent’s East Hill, which injured another person.
“It was gang related. No doubt in my mind,” said Thomas, who is also now calling for “Chief Summit” to address a pressing gang issue in South King County. Thomas, and others, claim budget cuts have reduced effectiveness in reducing gang violence.
“If we don’t get out in front of it, we’re going to chase the gunfire,” said Thomas.
King County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. John Urquhart says budget cuts have forced the elimination of department gang units, and he acknowledges, gang crime has now moved into the suburbs.
“It takes a lot of prevention and intervention,” said Mariko Lockhart, the Director of the city-funded Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative. She runs an organization which aims to reduce youth violence, through outreach and counseling on the street level. She says her employees efforts worked in the aftermath of the fatal shooting of Tanaya Gilbert, in South Seattle, earlier this month.
“We’ve been able to keep additional violence from happening surrounding that event,” she said.
Lockhart also says she believes demographics have altered the gang landscape. Certain families have moved to the suburbs, and the problems have followed. She agrees with Thomas’ assertion, and says it will take creativity to turn the negative into a positive.
“It may not mean investing more, but investing differently,” Lockhart said.
The SYVPI will have street outreach workers on the street this week, attempting to de-fuse any existing conflicts, before the Torchlight Parade this Saturday. It has traditionally been a hot spot for gang-related confrontations.