Gang Ties Probed in Motive for Fatal Shooting at Park

Jennifer Sullivan and Janet I. Tu, Seattle Times, July 18, 2010

From outward appearances, the two groups were celebrating a warm summer Saturday in typical Northwest fashion: grilling food along a picturesque lakefront as children played. One group was gathered around a birthday cake on a picnic table.

Though separated by 50 to 75 feet at crowded Lake Sammamish State Park, several members of one group walked over and taunted members of the second group, King County sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. John Urquhart said. The reason is unclear, though Urquhart said members of each group had gang affiliations. And many had firearms.

A fistfight erupted around 9 p.m., and someone from one group apparently fired a gun into the air as a warning. After that, “it sounds to me like everybody pulled out guns,” Urquhart said.

Gunfire between the two groups sent their members and other park visitors scrambling for cover, some ducking into restrooms as up to 20 shots filled the air. When the gunfire stopped, two men had fatal wounds and four more were injured.

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Urquhart said it’s unclear whether the motive for the shootings stemmed from a gang rivalry, though investigators are looking into that. He said the groups were made up of people of mainly Asian descent.

The two men killed–one from each group–have not been identified. One is a 33-year-old of Asian descent from Kent, and the other is 30, white and from Seattle, Urquhart said. At least one of them is believed to have fired gunshots, he said.

All of the dead and wounded were with the two picnicking groups, a law-enforcement source said.

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The groups are from South Seattle, the source said.

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Gang-related incidents in King County are rising.

At a briefing last week before the Metropolitan King County Council’s Law, Justice, Health and Human Services Committee, sheriff’s Detective Joe Gagliardi said 1,084 gang-related incidents were recorded in 2009, slightly fewer than in 2008. But he said the 280 incidents reported in the first quarter of 2010 put this year on track to exceed 2009.

Gang investigators counted 122 criminal street gangs in King County last year, with an estimated 12,000 to 13,000 members, Gagliardi said. Of those, roughly 5,500 gang members live within Seattle city limits, he said.

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