Two homeless people were killed and three others wounded in a shooting at a large homeless encampment in Seattle on Tuesday night, according to local officials.
While it’s not yet clear what motivated the shooting, all of the victims lived in the homeless encampment, known as “The Jungle,” and Assistant Seattle Police Chief Bob Merner said the police “have reason to believe it was very targeted.”
One victim, a woman, died at the scene, while another man died after being brought to the hospital. The injured victims, two women and a man ages 25 to 45, underwent surgery for gunshot wounds to the chest, abdomen, and back. Two are in critical condition while the third is in serious condition.
Seattle’s homelessness problem was officially declared a state of emergency in November after 66 homeless people died on the city’s streets in 2015. And the shooting came at the same time as Mayor Ed Murray gave a speech about efforts to curb the crisis, saying, “People are dying on our streets. We are working on a complex problem in real time.” He called for voters to pass a doubling of the Seattle Housing Levy property tax and announced an additional $50 million in funding to serve the homeless.
November’s original announcement triggered more than $7 million in additional funding to address the situation, going toward new shelter beds as well as ramped up outreach and prevention efforts. “I can’t help but wonder, ‘Did I act too late?'” Murray said at a press briefing after the shooting, adding, “Maybe I should have issued the state of emergency months earlier… Obviously I’m going to ask if I did a good enough job. It’s on me in the end.”
The shooting is the largest to hit Seattle since one at a cafe killed five people in 2012. Violence has also visited the homeless encampment before, when in 2009 two people were murdered within two months.
If it turns out that the homeless encampment was specifically targeted, it would be an egregious example of a danger that often faces people who sleep outside: random but targeted violence. A 2014 report identified 109 acts of violence against the homeless committed by non-homeless people in 2013 — 18 of which were fatal, a rate that seemed to be increasing. Over the last 15 years, the report found 1,437 acts of violence, including 375 murders.
And while these acts against the homeless are not counted as hate crimes, they were all seen to be motivated by bias against this particular group of people. If they were counted as such, violence against the homeless would account for more hate crimes than against any other group.
This article has been updated with a clarification on the funding proposals Murray announced on Tuesday evening.