Wave Of Gun Violence Has Seattle On Edge

Melissa Block talks with Martin Kaste about an epidemic of gun violence in Seattle. A shooting near the University of Washington on Wednesday killed two people and wounded three. A woman was shot and killed in a separate incident in the center of the city. All this follows a weekend of violence that has the city shaken.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

A day of gun violence has come to a dramatic end in Seattle. Earlier in the day, a man shot five people in a café near the University of Washington, killing three. Not long after, a woman was shot and killed downtown, police believe by the same gunman. And now, police say, it appears that gunman has shot himself.

NPR's Martin Kaste has been following this story all day. He joins us now. Martin, does this mean the manhunt is over?

MARTIN KASTE, BYLINE: It seems to be. All day long, the police here have been tracking the suspect. They were heading in the direction of west Seattle because there were reports that perhaps he stole a vehicle and drove in that direction. In fact, there is strong suspicion now on the part of the police that another fatal shooting incident in downtown involved him perhaps stealing a car, which was then recovered in this neighborhood called west Seattle.

A short time ago, assistant police chief Jim Pugel(ph) said that as police were searching that neighborhood, they encountered a man who matched the suspect's description.

JIM PUGEL: When the officers and SWATs started vectoring in on the suspect, the suspect saw the uniformed officers, he apparently knelt down in the middle of the street and put the gun to his head and shot himself.

BLOCK: And any indication of who he is and whether these shootings were random or whether he was targeting someone in particular?

KASTE: Nothing firm, yet. There's been a lot of speculation, a lot of talk in Seattle about who the victims were. Apparently, they appear to have been connected to some kind of an entertainment scene here or musical group. But right now, no theories from the police about that.

BLOCK: And this follows, Martin, a series of shootings over the last week or so. Do police have any explanation for what's been going on, whether there's anything tying these together?

KASTE: There hasn't been. And this sort of spate of shootings has been quite remarkable for Seattle. Over the holiday weekend, a father of two was hit by a stray bullet as he drove through part of central Seattle, and was killed in front of his family. There were drive-by shootings injuring people, spraying bullets into a couple of houses. Really unusual events in Seattle and it's really shaken people up. Police were speaking to the city council just yesterday about it, trying to come up with some explanations. And, really, the police say they don't see a common thread. The suspected shooters in all those situations are very different - you've got older people, younger people. They don't say it's really gangs or anything like that. The only common thread is firearms.

BLOCK: And as you've talked to people there in Seattle, today, Martin, what have they told you?

KASTE: Well, I wouldn't say that people are living in fear of gun violence but they're definitely worried and wondering what the connection is here. So far, the city of Seattle is now approaching almost 20 murders for the year. That's a lot higher than we were last year, but it's still pretty low compared to other big cities. So there's a question here right now whether this is a spike or whether there's something bigger going on.

BLOCK: OK. NPR's Martin Kaste in Seattle talking about a string of deadly shootings in that city. Martin, thanks very much.

KASTE: You're welcome.

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