SEATTLE — A 33-year-old man remains in critical condition at Harborview Medical Center after being shot at the Capitol Hill Organized Protest zone, also known as CHOP, in Seattle early Saturday. The 19-year-old victim, identified as Horace Anderson, was also shot and died from his injuries. Seattle police are continuing to investigate but there are different theories emerging about who might be responsible.
Jake Scheels said he spent several days at the CHOP broadcasting on Facebook Live and learning about the cause. Scheels was in the middle of one of his live streams Saturday when what sounded like gunshots can be heard in the background.
Scheels said people had been partying in the street, but there was frustration after someone lit off fireworks, and then it continued to escalate.
"I saw the ambulances and firetrucks arrive they tried to get closer to the victims," said Scheels. He described the atmosphere as "really heated" and he said alcohol may have been a factor.
District 3 Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant, who represents the Capitol Hill neighborhood, released a statement about the deadly shooting that said in part, "Though we await confirmation of the details of the killing, there are indications that this may have been a right-wing attack."
KING 5 reached out to Sawant to try and get more information on those claims, but she did not return a request for comment. Seattle police have not confirmed a motive for the shooting.
Scheels said he didn't see anything like that.
A spokesperson for Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said in a statement, "It is premature to determine or speculate about the cause of the shooting, or the perpetrators, including whether it was connected or related to any of the protests occurring on Capitol Hill."
Organizers from the CHOP also released a statement that said the people involved in the shooting may have a previous history and "the situation escalated because of gang affiliations," however, the involvement of gangs in the shooting has not been confirmed by police. They added, "Our de-escalation teams were en route."
The CHOP organizers blamed the Seattle Fire Department's standard operating procedure for any delay in medical treatment because paramedics wait for Seattle police to secure a scene before entering it. They also said no one officially denied Seattle police entry to the area.
"No one within the CHOP denied entry to PD within any organizational capacity. Officers deciding on their own not to enter an area is not the same as being denied entry," read the statement. "We as safety teams are peacekeepers, not police. We do not want to be homicide detectives, or CSI, or accessories to this murder. We still want what we wanted from day one, justice for all."
Seattle police released officer body camera footage of the incident and said crowds kept them from securing the scene so paramedics could respond.
After repeated requests from KING 5 for an on-camera interview, Mayor Jenny Durkan and her spokesperson released this statement Sunday:
"Thousands of peaceful demonstrators gather almost daily on Capitol Hill. Tens of thousands of others continue to gather almost daily across the City. It is the City’s responsibility to maintain the safety in these circumstances in all parts of Seattle, including the more dangerous conditions on Capitol Hill in the evenings. Chief Best and the Seattle Police Department have been working with the Seattle Fire Department and other departments to implement new strategies to deal with regularly changing circumstances in the area," said Mayor Durkan in the statement.
She continued, "Working with Chief Scoggins, Chief Best, and other City departments, the City will continue to make changes on Capitol Hill in partnership with Black-led community organizations, demonstrators, small businesses, residents, and trusted messengers who will center de-escalation. In the coming days, I believe together we can create a Capitol Hill environment that allows for peaceful demonstrations at Cal Anderson, quality of life for residents, and take concrete steps towards a new vision for policing in our City."
"We will continue to focus on the systemic changes demanded by this time in history. We must hear the voices raised in protest, admit and dismantle the systemic perpetuation of racism, and invest broadly in the health and wealth of our communities of color, particularly our Black community," concluded the statement.
A spokesperson from Mayor Durkan's office also added the following statement in regards to safety inside the CHOP.
"The Mayor and City staff have been meeting with small business owners and residents in and around Cal Anderson Park and the Pike/Pine corridor. Based on those conversations and reports from City staff on the ground, it’s clear that the experience in and around Cal Anderson differs greatly between daytime and nighttime. We have been meeting with residents and small business owners to address their safety and disorder concerns, including the ability of first responders to access emergencies in the area," according to the statement.
The spokesperson also added, "The City is working with community-based organizations on several near and long term strategies and investments, as articulated by the community, to ensure that our residents and businesses can thrive. This is particularly critical as many businesses start to open in Phase 2 and hope to start recovering from the COVID-19 economic shutdown. Some near-term strategies include working with trusted messengers and de-escalators in the area around Cal Anderson. These community-based de-escalators will facilitate community conversations with residents in and around the area, and act as liaisons on issues of outreach, police reform, and building community trust and relationships."
Organizers and volunteers of the CHOP tweeted a list of potential changes for the zone Sunday afternoon in response to the deadly shooting. Some of the changes include monitoring the use of alcohol and/or drugs and creating "safe use" areas and also limiting the hours of the zone from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County said on its Facebook page Sunday, "Yesterday, our community gathered to create a space of healing in CHOP, and yet the aftermath resulted in the loss of Black life. It is devastating that we continue to witness this trend of people gathering in the name of Black lives to be met with violent opposition."
Scheels said before Saturday’s shooting, the area had been extremely peaceful. He hopes the shooting doesn't mean the end of the CHOP.
"That one incident shouldn't be the end of what people are building there," he said. "I believe it's a social experiment, people take care of people."
So far, no information has been released about a suspect in the deadly shooting and no arrests have been announced.