Six young people at an all-night macabre-themed party were shot to death Saturday morning by a man who unloaded dozens of rounds of ammunition before killing himself in front of a police officer arriving at the scene, police said.
The execution-style rampage occurred just after 7 a.m. at a home on a normally placid street in Seattle’s well-to-do Capitol Hill neighborhood, said Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske. He said the victims, four males and two females, appeared to be in their teens or early 20s. Their identities were not released as of late Saturday.
The gunman, who reportedly had met some of the partygoers several hours earlier at a separate rave-style event, charged through the front of the house bearing a 12-gauge pistol-grip shotgun and a semiautomatic handgun, Kerlikowske said.
The man started firing without let-up at the youths, several of whom were wearing fake blood, skeleton masks and other items to “look as if they were dead” in keeping with the theme of the dance and party, the chief said.
Two people remain hospitalized.
One attendee at the party, 20-year-old Gary Will, was in an upstairs bathroom with his 17-year-old girlfriend when they heard the shooting spree.
“We heard lots of gunshots, then we heard silence, then we heard him coming up the stairs,” Will said Saturday afternoon outside the Seattle police headquarters. “He knew we were in there.”
The door was locked. Will said that when the shooter jiggled the doorknob and could not open it, he started firing through the door. Will said he and his girlfriend huddled in the bathtub for protection.
Meanwhile, some of the roughly 20 partygoers who were not shot escaped out the front door and started banging on the doors of nearby homes, screaming, “Please, let me in,” neighbors said. One man who was shot in the chest was said to have struggled out the door as well, collapsing on the steps and dying.
Police said the gunman then ran downstairs and out the front door as an officer arrived. The officer ordered the man to drop his weapons; instead, the shooter placed one of the guns in his mouth and fired, dying instantly, police said.
Kerlikowske said investigators had not determined the motives of the shooter, whom he did not identify by name but described as a local man in his late 20s who appeared to have a minor criminal record but no history of violence.
The man attended the earlier nearby dance party, which had a “Better Off Undead” theme in which attendees were to look as if they had come back from the grave.
Shortly before the shootings, the man spray-painted the word “Now” on the steps and driveways of several houses in the neighborhood with bright orange paint, police said. “We have no idea what that means or what significance that plays,” Kerlikowske said.
There was alcohol and marijuana at the scene, he said, but it was unclear whether the shooter was intoxicated.
Will said of the party: “Nobody there was getting really smashed. It was really chill,” or calm, he said, adding, “This guy just shows up and starts shooting off rounds.”
Several people in their early 20s lived in the rental house where the shootings occurred. A public middle school is half a block from the shooting scene with a park, community garden and playing fields just beyond.
“They were nice enough young people,” said Charles Jackson, 67, a retired bus driver who lives two houses away. “One of them had blue hair, another had it dyed purple. They wore a lot of nose rings and lip rings and so forth, but they certainly weren’t out to hurt anybody.”
Jackson said the house had drawn mild complaints around the neighborhood for the late-night and early-morning parties there, but really “nothing unusual for a house with a bunch of young people living in it.”