Seattle attorney: The Jungle has been 'lawless' for decades

A Seattle attorney says the city and state dropped the ball when confronted with safety concerns at "The Jungle" homeless encampment. She says they've known about the dangers there for years.

One day after a deadly shooting, a Seattle attorney says the city and state dropped the ball when confronted with safety concerns at the homeless encampment known as "The Jungle".


"It is a problem that they have intentionally ignored," she said.  "It's not that they just ignore it, it's that they intentionally ignore it because they can't manage it."Karen Koehler says a lawsuit she filed years ago proves both the city and state were aware of the dangers in the area along Airport Way South for quite some time, but did nothing about it.

Koehler said it was back in 2008 when a client of hers was driving on I-5 and his pick-up truck was hit by a piece of concrete that was thrown from the Holgate overpass.  That overpass is located adjacent to "The Jungle."

The chunk of concrete then smashed into the man's windshield, bounced into the cab of the truck, and hit him, seriously injuring his shoulder.  

Koehler says her client chose to sue, and when the case went to trial in 2011, they alleged that the State of Washington failed to protect him and many others who drive, walk, live, or work near the homeless encampment.

Court documents from the case cite hundreds of police calls and examples of criminal activity taking place inside "The Jungle" over the course of several years.

"People have been stabbed there, they've been murdered, they've been raped," said Koehler.  "No one cared."

She says a jury in 2011 ultimately found the state negligent in protecting the public, but did not find the state liable for the piece of concrete that was thrown from the overpass.

Koehler hoped the state would take action to make "The Jungle" a safer place back then, but says no changes were made.  So when she learned two people were killed and three more were hurt during a shooting on Tuesday night, sadly, she was not surprised.

"I mean, this has been going on forever," she said.  "It is a free-for-all in the jungle, and it's a human disaster."

This time around, she says the city and state can't afford not to take action.


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