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Teen killed in shooting outside Seattle’s Garfield High School

Students console each other after a shooting outside of Garfield High School on Thursday, June 6, 2024, in Seattle. (Nick Wagner/The Seattle Times/TNS)

SEATTLE — A 17-year-old-boy shot outside Garfield High School on Thursday died at Harborview Medical Center as police continue searching for the shooter.

The suspect is believed to be a high school-aged male, Deputy Chief Eric Barden said in a news conference.

Shots were fired in the school’s parking lot during lunch time, and a Garfield High student was injured, Seattle Public Schools said in a statement. Harborview Medical Center later confirmed the teen died, police said around 6:15 p.m.

“I can’t use the word trauma enough to describe what our children are going through,” said Mayor Bruce Harrell, a graduate of Garfield High School, at a news conference Thursday. “This is not the first shooting at Garfield, and these kids deserve better.”

Harrell said he is directing the Seattle Police Department to enhance patrols.

Interim police Chief Sue Rahr said the department would “redouble” its efforts in the Central District to help students and families feel safe.

“We’re not coming in here to be hard-core policing,” Rahr said at the news conference in the Central District’s Mount Calvary Christian Center. “We’re coming into the neighborhood to gather with the community, work with the community.”

Shortly after 4:30 p.m., Barden said crime scene processors were wrapping up the scene and detectives were meeting with witnesses and students.

Garfield began releasing students around 3:15 p.m. Students trickled out of the school’s back doors at 3:45 p.m. as cars slowly snaked down East Alder Street. A crowd of parents stood anxiously near the gate and across the street, some crying or hugging each other.

Nova High and Washington Middle School nearby were in shelter-in-place mode, with outside doors locked but normal school operations continuing, the district said.

Jeff Scott said he was relieved when his daughter, a Garfield freshman, emerged from the school.

Responding to the school after another shooting so soon after the last one felt “surreal,” he said.

A student was shot in March while waiting for her bus outside the school. There was also a shooting outside the school in October and a string of nearby shootings last June that did not involve students but prompted increased security on campus.

“Kids shouldn’t have to deal with this — it’s too much,” Scott said. “I honestly don’t know what we do about it.”

Melanie Skinner waited across the street for her daughter, a Garfield student, to come outside. After the shooting in March, Skinner said she helped organize a protest calling for more intervention to prevent gun violence near the school.

“I’m really raw,” Skinner said. “It’s become so normalized.”

Police urged people to avoid the area. The shooting comes 15 days before the last day of school at Garfield High.

Barden said the victim went into surgery at Harborview Medical Center. Police later confirmed he succumbed to his injuries.

Officers responded at about 12:30 p.m. to reports of gunfire at the school and found the boy on the ground, Barden said. Officers applied chest seals and rendered first aid until Seattle Fire Department paramedics arrived and took him to Harborview.

Detectives learned that before the shooting, the 17-year-old tried to break up “an altercation” between two boys, Barden said. Sometime after that, he said, one of the boys was “apparently angry” and exchanged words with the victim before shooting him and running away.

Police have not identified or found the suspect, who fled on foot and was wearing a red sweatshirt, light blue jeans and white sneakers.

Barden said police “flooded” the areas witnesses saw the suspect run to but have not successfully located the suspect.

Detectives are reviewing surveillance camera footage and interviewing witnesses. Barden encouraged anyone with information about the shooting or suspect’s identity to call 206-233-5000.

“This is an extraordinary tragedy for the community,” Barden said. “It’s the community’s top priority to protect young people.”

Mount Calvary Bishop Reggie C. Witherspoon Sr., who said he knows the victim’s family, said his heart is “crushed.” Witherspoon said the community, not just police, are responsible for transforming the growing tide of gun violence. Staff members with the youth violence intervention organization Urban Family were also at the Thursday news conference.

“We have an epidemic on our hands,” Witherspoon said. “We’re on the verge of losing an entire generation of young people.”

Serafina Alberoto, 16, and Meriyem Roba, 16, both Garfield sophomores, were buying lunch from a nearby chicken shop when they said they saw seven Seattle police cruisers zoom toward the school.

At 12:32 p.m., Roba’s freshman brother called her and begged her not to walk back to the school.

“He said, ‘Don’t come, don’t come — the whole school is on lockdown,’ ” Roba said. “He was panicked.”

Roba and Alberoto said they feel numb as shootings have become so frequent around their school. From a perch on a patio outside the school, they pointed out the locations of recent shootings.

“We feel unsafe — imagine if that was one of us?” Roba said.

“It can be one of us anytime,” Alberoto said.

The sophomores said Garfield students are struggling emotionally, and some have been drawn into gangs. Their social media feeds often show fellow students posing with guns, they said.

The students said their counselors are overworked, and appointments with the school’s therapist are rare.

“We need to give them hope of a future, because if they think they’ll die at 25, why not do this?” Roba said, gesturing at the crime scene tape.

On Thursday, Seattle Public Schools’ website linked to a page for Gun Violence Awareness Day, which falls on Friday.

Garfield students and staff have faced the threat of gun violence on or near the campus for decades.

Since the 1990s, there have been roughly five on-campus gun violence incidents in Seattle schools. Two of those were at Garfield. In 1994, a student pulled out a gun and started shooting during a fight in the lunchroom, injuring two students. In 2008, a teenage gang member shot and killed a Garfield student from a rival gang behind the school building.

Michelle Martine, a first grade teacher at Stevens Elementary School and a parent of a 16-year-old Garfield sophomore, said she raced to the school after learning of the shooting.

Standing behind the yellow crime scene tape, Martine yelled at the officers gathered next to the school to close the school tomorrow.

“Don’t send our kids back here, it’s cruel,” she yelled. “No school for the rest of the year.”

Martine said she taught the 17-year-old girl who was shot outside Garfield High School in March. Her son is friends with the girl and was standing next to her when the shooting happened, the bullets missing him by inches, she said.

While her son doesn’t want to miss school or time with his friends, Martine said he’s been afraid to walk to Garfield ever since.

Martine said Garfield High School did not close the day after the shooting two months ago. She’s hoping the district will close the school tomorrow or for the rest of the year to protect its students.

“My job as a teacher and a parent is to keep kids safe,” she said. “I just don’t want to see a kid end their school year on the ground, dead.”


(Seattle Times staff reporters Dahlia Bazzaz and David Gutman contributed to this report.)


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