With gun deaths up in Seattle, leaders ask how 'to bring us together'
There have been 39 homicides in Seattle so far this year, more than in all of 2019. Many victims were killed by guns. That prompted community members to seek solutions at a gun violence roundtable Thursday, organized by Converge Media and the South Seattle Emerald.
Alicia Dassa is a parent whose son Conner Dassa-Holland was shot and killed in Seattle’s Rainier Beach neighborhood last May. She said she is struggling not only with her son’s death, but the deaths of so many other young people since then.
“Right now as a community and as parents, I’m just at a loss,” she said. “I’m at a loss for where we are, what we can do, it’s so overwhelming in the last few months.”
But Dassa also said, “I work for Public Health (Seattle-King County). I feel like we have a job to do.”
Donnitta Sinclair-Martin is the mother of Lorenzo Anderson, who was shot and killed in the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest last June. She asked, “What are we going to do as leaders that’s going to bridge this gap and bring us together?”
Sinclair-Martin said she didn’t have support as a young person.
“I come from an addicted mother, I come from a father that didn’t accept me,” she said. “I didn’t even love myself. But now when I look in the mirror, I’m okay with who I am.”
Now she said she’s working on creating a space in her son’s memory, to support young people and their families.
“I want these young adults to come somewhere where they can feel safe, know they’re safe. Not just feel it, know it.”
Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz told the community members that this year’s gun violence statistics are a challenge, and an anomaly.
“We are at the highest level in 11 years,” he said. “We’ve had 329 shot fired this year. Let me put that in perspective, we had 332 all last year.”
There were 70 shots fired last Friday near Emerson Elementary in the Rainier Beach neighborhood alone.
Diaz said the victims of gun violence have been disproportionately young, Black and male. But community members at the roundtable did not call for more funding for police – Sean Goode with the youth intervention program Choose 180 wants city leaders to divert funding from the police to violence prevention groups.
“We are at a crucial moment in our city where we can have a conversation around the things we truly value,” he said. “And the things we value are the thing we invest in. And we can begin to invest in alternatives, but we have to do so aggressively.”
Chief Diaz said he has to maintain public safety until new types of emergency responders are ready to go.
Meanwhile the founder of the Teen Late Night program for Seattle Parks, Reco Bembry, said it’s worth celebrating that the program still exists 30 years later.
“Let’s not forget the work that we’re doing that’s working. Because the moment we stop and think we’re defeated, we lose,” he said. “There are a lot of lives lost, but there are thousands of lives that are saved” through programs that focus on youth, he said.