SEATTLE — police say a “violent crowd” prevented them reaching two shooting victims — one whom later died — inside the city’s autonomous protest zone Saturday.
Officers responded around 2:30 a.m. local time Saturday to a report of shots fired at Cal Anderson Park inside the area referred to as the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP) or Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ), according to a police statement.
“Officers attempted to locate a shooting victim but were met by a violent crowd that prevented officers safe access to the victims,” the statement reads.
Police said they were later informed that CHOP medics had taken the two victims to hospital.
Officers went to Harborview Medical Center where they were told a 19-year-old male had died from his injuries. Police said the other shooting victim — a male — remains in the hospital with life-threatening injuries.
The suspect or suspects remain at large.
“Homicide detectives responded and are conducting a thorough investigation, despite the challenges presented by the circumstances,” the police statement says.
Footage of the incident
Police later released video footage of the incident.
The video shows the initial moments of the shooting, in which the sound of shots was captured on security cameras. Later, body camera video showed protesters confronting police as they arrive at the scene.
That video shows at least eight officers entering the area, some carrying shields, as protesters yell at them. An officer can be heard saying, “Please move out of the way so we can get to the victim. All we are trying to do is get to the victim and provide them aid.”
A bystander can be heard yelling: “You don’t belong here, they’re gone, the victim is gone.” Another says, “Put your f***** guns down.”
A later clip shows police leaving as members of the public continue to yell at them. Some can be seen holding back other protesters from the officers as they head towards their patrol cars.
As the officer wearing the camera pulls away, he yells “Move, move out of the way” as protesters apparently hit the car.
Police boarded up the East Precinct building in the Capitol Hill neighborhood and left it unoccupied after tensions with demonstrators reached boiling point during protests over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
On Monday, Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best denied claims that officers in her department had been instructed not to respond to 911 calls in CHOP.
Best told CNN on Monday, “Seattle is not under siege and we are responding to every call and every area of the city.” She acknowledged that barricades in the zone could slow police access.
When CNN visited the zone last Sunday, reporters found a festival-like atmosphere, with meditation and painting. Some people in the zone openly carried firearms, which is allowed in the state of Washington.
‘Turn yourself in’
At CHOP Saturday, protesters expressed their sadness at the shooting.
“When I woke up this morning and I learned about it — it broke my heart,” one man told CNN affiliate KIRO. “I love how it’s organized but last night — as I slept somewhere else — somebody got killed.”
He appealed for those responsible to give themselves up to police, suggesting protesters would take a harder line: “Turn yourself in, because if you don’t … it’s better that the police get hold of you than they do.”
Another deplored the impact on the protest movement, saying, “That shooting last night is going to take away from the message.”