Victim's son remembers courthouse shooting on 20-year anniversary

Victim's son organizes a vigil at the King County Courthouse to remember the three women who lost their lives in the 1995 courthouse shooting and other victims of domestic violence. Elisa Hahn reports.

SEATTLE -- Of the thousands of people who go in and out of the King County Courthouse every day, few may actually notice a memorial plaque on the wall. They may not know that the metal detector they walk through and the marshal who watches over them are there because of the sacrifice of three women.

Derek Orbiso Dizon was 4 years old when his mother and two others were gunned down. Yet his memory of her still clear as crystal.

"I can see her cooking," he said. "I can hear her humming hymns, I can see her whisking yolks for one of her cakes. That's what I remember about my mother. I remember her love and compassion and creativity, and that's something I carry with me every day."

This week marks the 20-year anniversary of the domestic violence shooting at the King County Courthouse. Three women died that day, including Dizon's mother, Veronica Laureta, and Susanna Blackwell, who was going through a divorce at the time.

Dizon and Laureta were there to testify on Blackwell's behalf. Her husband, Timothy Blackwell, who pulled the trigger, is in prison for life.

Losing his mother was tough. But Dizon says growing up without her was sometimes embarrassing.

"When mothers pick up their children from school," he said. "For Mother's day, you sit around the circle and talk about Mother's Day. When you do band performances or choir performances, where is your mother in the crowd?"

But now he has seen the impact that day had on the safety of others, who often go to the courthouse seeking justice and protection.

"The metal detectors provide some safety, but we have to think about this case in a much broader sense. How are we providing services for survivors in the communities to where they don't have to go through these metal detectors?"

The tragedy also gave way in the development of API Chaya, a resource center at an undisclosed location for domestic violence victims in the Asian Pacific Islander community.

The idea is to support a friend in need, just like Derek's mother was doing 20 years ago.

"She was doing what a lot of us would do, right?" he asked. "We all have good friends in our lives, and people we love in our lives. And she did what she could do to support a friend."

Dizon is a UW graduate and now serves as vigil coordinator for API Chaya.


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