SEATTLE — While attempting to break up a fight between two men near the ‘Jungle’ homeless camp Tuesday, a Seattle police officer shot one of the men who was armed with a knife, police said. He later died at the hospital.
The other man was also taken to Harborview Medical Center with a non-life-threatening knife wound to his hand, SPD said.
No officers were injured.
SPD said the two officers were assisting city and state agencies that were clearing out the homeless camp under Interstate 5.
This video report was filed before the man shot by police had died at Harborview.
Two veteran officers were involved in this shooting. Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole said it was too early to know if the shooting is at all related to the sweep of the homeless camp.
People working nearby told Q13 News they heard gunfire and then saw police running into the homeless camp.
“It’s called the jungle for a reason and I guess that’s it right there,” said Jeffrey Wertz, who claims to have been close to the shooting scene.
Medics frantically performed CPR on one man, who later died; another man appeared to be dazed.
The shooting happened just after 12:30 p.m. Tuesday while crews began clearing the homeless out of the camp.
“We heard three pops and then all the police ran over there and that was about all we heard,” said Connie Bartle, who works nearby.
O’Toole said two officers working near The Jungle happened to come across two men fighting. When officers spotted one man with a knife, one officer opened fire.
“It was coincidental that officers witnessed this altercation, intervened trying to separate individuals and discovered one was armed with a knife,” said O’Toole.
In a news release later, the Seattle Police Department said that while two officers were attempting to separate the two men who were fighting, "one of the officers discharged her weapon, striking the man with the knife...
"The officer who discharged her firearm during the incident will be placed on paid administrative leave during the investigation."
Mayor Ed Murray issued the following statement:
“While details are still coming in, the Seattle Police Department is investigating an officer-involved shooting today in the East Duwamish Greenbelt.
“I am in regular communication with Chief O’Toole as the SPD’s Force Investigation Team conducts a full investigation, along with the presence of the civilian-led Office of Professional Accountability. As always under the Consent Decree, the Department of Justice and the Federal Monitor will be engaged throughout the review of the incident.
“At the same time, today’s operation in the Greenbelt was needed, both because of the long history of public safety issues in the area and because of the long-overdue work the Washington Department of Transportation needs to do on Interstate 5. We expect this work to continue at the conclusion of the investigation.”
The shooting happened hours after the homeless camp sweep began. Police were on hand as protesters tried to disrupt the planned event.
“These are our neighbors, just as much as the people who live in a house next door to you,” said protester Jesse Malinowski.
Officials said about a dozen homeless people chose to stay in The Jungle and risk arrest.
“Some of them didn’t think this day would come,” said Jeff Lilley with Union Gospel Mission. “I think today they’re believing that.”
Four men demonstrating against the camp sweep tried to block WSDOT trucks from entering the homeless camp. Police arrested them for trespassing.
“Where are you going to put the people" who are swept out of the camp? asked protester Sheraz Mohammed. “People are not garbage.”
The camp sweep comes after a double fatal shooting in The Jungle in January.
WSDOT said their crews have not been able to perform regular maintenance underneath the freeway because of all the homeless people living there. The clear-out should allow them to get back to work in the next few days.