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Homeless shooting related to ‘low-level drug dealing’, police chief says; mayor proposes doubling Housing Levy

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SEATTLE -- Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O'Toole said investigators believe the deadly shooting at a homeless encampment was "related to low-level drug dealing," and Mayor Ed Murray proposed doubling the $145 million Seattle Housing Levy to help fix the homeless problem.

Two people were killed and three were wounded in the shooting at The Jungle homeless encampment Tuesday night. The dead were identified by the King County Medical Examiner's Office Wednesday as James Q. Tran, 33, and Jeannine Zapata, 45.

They were attacked in what police said was a "specifically targeted" shooting in a wooded homeless encampment area east of Airport Way South and South Atlantic Street.

Around 7:15 p.m. Tuesday, police received reports of gunfire near the 1500 block of Airport Way South, the police blotter said.

Officers began searching a greenbelt in the area – sometimes referred to as “The Jungle” – and found the five victims. One  person was declared deceased at the scene and four were sent to Harborview Medical Center, where another man died.  All three were in serious condition.

O'Toole said in a Wednesday news conference that investigators have "a number of eyewitnesses" to the shooting. She also said at least two different weapons were used in the attack, as investigators found two different caliber shell casing at the scene. On Tuesday night, she said investigators were seeking two "persons of interest" in the case.

At the news conference, Murray said something has to be done about the homeless crisis in the city. He again said that the city cannot fix the problem alone, and he called on the state and federal government to help.

Murray said he cannot stand by and let the situation get worse.

“I believe it is inhumane to leave people in places such as the so-called Jungle, where they are murdered, and this is not the first murder, where they are raped, and where they have no possibility of treatment.

“We’re are going to continue to offer services. We are going to continue to expand services. We’re going to continue to enforce the law and we are going to continue, at least I am, acknowledge that Seattle has stepped up.”

He said the city ranks third in the nation in the services it provides to the homeless, and spends about $50 million a year on the issue.

He proposed doubling the $145 million Seattle Housing Levy, approved by voters in 2009 and due to expire at the end of 2016 -- a proposal that is unlikely to be popular among Seattle homeowners who pay property taxes.

O’Toole reassured residents that safety is a top priority and criminals, even if homeless, are being arrested.

“If people are committing crimes, carrying weapons, dealing drugs then we will enforce. There’s no question about that.”