Three women and two men were shot — two fatally — at a Sodo homeless encampment Tuesday night in what a police source said appeared to be a dispute among people who knew each other.
Police searched for two men in connection with the shooting near Airport Way South and South Atlantic Street, but were unsuccessful using a helicopter, SWAT team and police dogs. Assistant Chief Robert Merner said the shooting at the longstanding encampment didn’t appear random: “We have reason to believe it was very targeted.”
Two men apparently carried out the 7:15 p.m. attack at an area known as The Jungle, another source said, adding that police were interviewing witnesses to confirm that as they searched for suspects.
One woman was dead at the scene, and a man died at Harborview Medical Center. A man and two women were in critical condition and in surgery Tuesday night, a hospital spokeswoman said.
“We can’t speculate, but we’re hopeful” they will survive, said Harborview spokeswoman Susan Gregg.
The victims, ages 25 to 45, had gunshot wounds to the chest, abdomen and back.
“We have no reason to believe anyone else is in danger at this point,” said police Chief Kathleen O’Toole. “We have some very good leads,” and homicide detectives were interviewing several witnesses, she said.
She added that officers were sent to other encampments to check on and reassure people.
The shooting came as Mayor Ed Murray was about to give a televised speech in Seattle to defend what the city is doing to address pervasive homelessness, including his recent declaration of a state of emergency.
At the scene, he spoke again about the issue.
“I can’t help but wonder ‘Did I act too late?’ ” he said. “It’s on me in the end.”
He added: “We are involved in a homelessness crisis the like that we have not seen since the Great Depression. There is no simple answer.”
Murray said the Jungle has been “unmanageable and out of control for almost two decades” and that the city would launch an assessment of the encampment in the next two days.
He said city workers planned to be at the encampment Wednesday to clean up garbage and waste and offer residents social services, such as mental-health care and addiction treatment.
He also said the city, King County and state would conduct a health and safety assessment of people living along the Interstate 5 corridor, in part to see what could be done about encampments there.
The area was closed Tuesday night as authorities investigated, and the Department of Transportation said it likely would be closed all night and possibly into Wednesday morning.
Antonio Martinez said he has lived at the homeless encampment for the past three months but was turned away Tuesday night by police.
“People come in and out, drink beer,” he said. He said the men and women who live in the encampment are like “a community.”
Unable to access his tent, Martinez, who has been homeless for two years, said he would try to find a shelter bed for the night.
Police have conducted sweeps of the Jungle in the past, often in response to complaints from neighbors.
Tuesday’s shooting marked the second fatal attack at a Seattle encampment in the past five months.
Last August, a homeless woman was beaten to death under the Magnolia Bridge and her husband attacked, as the two ate in their tent.
Times staff reporters Daniel Beekman, Jennifer Sullivan, Sara Jean Green and Mike Lindblom contributed to this report.
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