SEATTLE – A shooting at a Seattle homeless encampment that left 2 people dead and three others wounded appears to have originated with a drug-dealing dispute, according to the police chief.
A man and woman who lived in the “The Jungle” were killed in the gunfire Tuesday evening. The three others remained in serious condition.
“The investigators feel strongly that’s probably the case, but again we always have to keep open minds in this type of investigation,” Chief Kathleen O’Toole said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon.
Officials with the King County Medical Examiner’s Office identified the 45-year-old woman killed as Jeannine L. Zapata, who is also known by the last name Brook. They identified the slain man as James Q. Tran, 33.
No arrests have been made although police say they have eyewitnesses and believe at least two people were involved in the shooting.
Police said they believe the shooters weren’t homeless but were acquainted with the victims. O’Toole also said Wednesday police have no evidence the people shot were targeted because they are homeless.
It was the second fatal attack at a homeless camp in Seattle within the past six months. In August, a homeless woman was beaten to death under a bridge and her husband was attacked.
Mayor Ed Murray and King County Executive Director Dow Constantine declared a state of emergency regarding homelessness in November, pledging more than $7 million to address the crisis.
Murray said Wednesday “significant parts” of the homeless services system in Seattle and throughout the country “are broken.”
Despite providing shelter for 2,000 people per night in the city, Murray said it’s not enough. He also reiterated a call he made in November for help at the federal level.
“These are humans. And for the most part, they’re not criminals,” he said.
O’Toole said police officers and social workers have been visiting other nearby homeless camps to reassure people that they are not in danger because of the shooting.
Police also hope to interview the three survivors at Harborview Medical Center, where they’ve undergone surgery for gunshot wounds to their upper bodies.
The conditions of the wounded continue to improve, Harborview Medical Center spokeswoman Susan Gregg said Wednesday in a news release.
The two women shot are breathing on their own and remain in serious condition in intensive care, Gregg said. The male victim had another surgery Wednesday, and his condition remains serious, she said.
The names of the injured victims have not been released. They range from 25 to 45 years old.