Renton shooting is city’s latest involving hookah lounges

RENTON, Wash. – Security guard Daron Whiting was standing guard outside Kazi's Hookah Lounge in Renton when several men started firing in their parking lot late Sunday night.

“It was pretty frightening. I mean it kind of felt like a war zone,” said Whiting.

Surveillance photos show about two dozen patrons inside the lounge at 10:41pm Sunday. Three minutes later most of those patrons had fled, a few others were shown ducking for cover.

“There was gunshots coming toward our way, like I could see the light flashes coming at us,” said Whiting.

When officers from Renton Police arrived they found a man in his mid 20s shot at least three times -- he was transported to Harborview Medical Center. His condition is unknown. Police were also notified of another 19-year-old man shot with non-life threatening injuries had been taken to Valley Medical Center.

Monday afternoon employees were still sweeping up glass and boarding up windows.

Flattened tires and bullet holes evidence of a chaotic scene late Sunday night.

“We never had this kind of problem before,” said lounge owner Shadika Kazi.

Kazi doesn't know who fired the shots but doesn't think they were targeting her business. Kazi did recognize one of the men who was shot saying he was a regular customer and an app designer for Amazon.

“I know many hookah lounges might have hookah problems because they don't know how to run the business right,” explained Kazi.

A problem that became very prevalent two years ago when Seattle Mayor Ed Murray tried to close hookah lounges after beloved community leader Donnie Chin was shot and killed in the International District.

“The city of Seattle has no place and will no longer tolerate hookah lounges that have been a source of violence,” said Mayor Murray in August 2015. “There have been more than 100 fights and disturbances. And of the hookah establishments that we know exist in the city limits, there have been shootings outside of four of them.”

Another one in Renton occurred this past December outside Nomads Hookah Lounge only about three miles from the shooting at Kazi’s.

Q13 News reporter Katie Boer asked the owner if she was worried about being shut down after this latest shooting.

“I don't think that would be a good idea for Seattle, Washington because hookah is very--you have to understand this is a culture.” Kazi described.

Monday police said they responded to at least three other shootings outside hookah lounges in Renton just this year.

But lounge owners argue the rash of shootings have nothing to do with hookah business.

“Hookah does not attract violence,” said Kazi. “It doesn't do anything to attract violence. The people is the problem. It depends what kind of people, clients you actually try to get in your business.”