2 Killed In Shooting At Homeless Encampment Known As 'The Jungle'

Jan 26, 2016

Two people were killed on Tuesday night after a shooting near Airport Way South.

At 7:21 p.m., police received calls about gun fire in a wooded area known as The Jungle. The Jungle is a greenbelt where many homeless people put up tents.  

Responding to the scene, police found five gunshot victims. One person died at the scene; another died at Harborview Medical Center. Three other victims went into surgery at the hospital on Tuesday night.

PHOTOS: This is Seattle's Notorious 'Jungle' 

Harborview said the victims are two women and a man between 25 and 45 years old.

“Areas injured from the gunshot wounds include the chest, abdomen and back,” a hospital spokeswoman wrote by email. The hospital was not expecting other shooting victims.

Police said there are two people of interest, but no one has been caught. They did not release a shooter description.

After 10-Year Plan, Why Does Seattle Have More Homeless Than Ever? 

"We believe this is a targeted incident. We have no reason to believe that anyone else is in danger at this point,” Police Chief Kathleen O'Toole said at a media briefing Tuesday night. “We have sent officers from our anti-crime teams, from different precincts to neighboring locations, to neighboring encampments to check on the well-being of people who may be there and also to reassure them at this time."

Lisa Sawyer is a Real Change vendor. She is also homeless. She's familiar with the camp where the shooting took place and she's concerned about friends who sometimes stay there.

“I feel a little worried, a little scared,” Sawyer said. “We won't know anything until we get in the office a little bit later on today if we recognize anyone who is missing from our normal morning group.”

Ironically, the shooting happened as the mayor was speaking on TV and radio about efforts to fight Seattle's homeless situation.

Speaking near the scene of the shooting Tuesday night, Mayor Ed Murray urged the public and camp residents not to take matters into their own hands.

"This is a tragedy, it involves homeless people and the causes of homelessness are complex. There is no simple answer. And this is not the time to go back into our individual camps and start firing at each other," Murray said.

Murray said the area has been a longtime trouble spot. "The area behind us, on state right of way, commonly called the Jungle, has been unmanageable and out of control for almost two decades."

The Jungle was due to be cleared out by police officers Wednesday, according to the city.

Murray said he hopes people don't use this shooting to support unfounded stereotypes about homeless people.

“Some simply have lost their jobs and are in economic hard times. Three thousand school age children in this city are homeless. So I think it would be a travesty for some people to use this tragedy to try and paint all homeless people as criminals,” Murray said.

Jonah Spangenthal-Lee described The Jungle in a story he wrote for the SPD Blotter: 

Every day, thousands of people drive past the greenbelt—which sits on a Washington State Department of Transportation property along Interstate 5, stretching all the way up the South Precinct—or pass through it on the newly opened Mountain to Sound Trail, which rolls along Beacon Hill’s west slope. But the greenbelt’s forest canopy also serves as a shield from the elements for the many homeless men and women who live in encampments tucked into the wooded hillside. 

A file photo of the area where the shooting took place.
Credit Seattle Police Department/Jonah Spangenthal-Lee