Spasm of shootings in Wash. leaves 4 dead
Shootings set off a manhunt that forced officials to close nearby schools
By Gene Johnson
SEATTLE — A gunman who opened fire at a cafe Wednesday, killing three people, critically wounding two others and setting off a citywide manhunt apparently shot himself as officers closed in on him, authorities said.
His condition wasn't immediately known.
Police searching for the suspect also had to respond to another fatal shooting near the city's downtown. They say a man killed a woman in an apparent carjacking and fled in a black SUV. Authorities didn't know if the shootings were related.
The latest spasm of deadly gun violence to hit the city worried Seattle's leaders and prompted police to consider increasing patrols in high-crime areas. The three deaths bring the number of homicides so far this year to 19, compared with 21 in all of last year.
Gunfire erupted late Wednesday morning at Cafe Racer, a restaurant and music venue north of the University of Washington. The gunman was described as a man in his 30s wearing dark clothes.
Police released two photos from inside the cafe, apparently taken from a security camera.
One shows a man walking into the establishment, with a woman nearby reading a book. Another photo shows stools overturned, and the man standing and holding what appears to be a handgun.
Two men died at the scene. A woman from the cafe died at a hospital.
Evan Hill, who lives above the building where the shooting happened, said the cafe was an artists' collective and performance space.
"It's the strangest place to think of a shooting," said Hill, who heard four to five shots. He said he ran to his balcony and called 911, but didn't see a suspect.
On a street corner across from the cafe, friends of the victims gathered by the ivy-covered wall of an apartment building. Some collapsed in grief. The cafe's owner hugged them and commiserated.
Units of police officers marched by with rifles and shotguns, knocking on doors and checking driveways and yards in the neighborhood of single-family, bungalow-style homes, restaurants and businesses.
Assistant Police Chief Jim Pugel said late Wednesday afternoon that a plain-clothes detective spotted the cafe suspect in the southwestern part of the city and called for unformed officers and a SWAT team. As those officers arrived, the man put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger, Pugel said.
During the manhunt, Roosevelt High School, Eckstein Middle School and Greenlake Elementary were locked down, according to the school district.
In the second shooting, the SUV that the gunman fled in was later found, but the suspect remained at large, police said.
In the last month, there have been two random killings in the city.
Last week, a man died when a stray bullet struck him as he and his family drove down a Seattle street. In late April, a woman died of injuries suffered in an apparently random drive-by shooting near downtown.
No arrests have been made in either of those fatalities.
On Saturday, a bystander was wounded near the iconic Space Needle when he was struck by a bullet allegedly fired by a gang member involved in a dispute with another man, authorities said.
Later that night, about 60 shots were fired in drive-by shootings at four houses. No one was hit.
Besides the plan to increase the number of officers on patrol in high-crime areas, police are urging people with information about shootings to come forward.
At a news conference, Mayor Mike McGinn said the spate of violence had "shaken" the city.
"It's going to take our political leaders, coming together, to give our police officers the support and tools they need to do their jobs," McGinn said.
City Councilman Bruce Harrell said leaders needed to consider everything — from changing laws to addressing the culture of violence.
"If we are to be honest, there's no easy fix," he said.
Copyright 2012 Associated Press
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