Ross: With current police shortage, Seattle is already no-cop zone

Oct 19, 2022, 9:54 AM | Updated: 10:20 am


A view of an abandoned Seattle police East Precinct station inside the so-called "Capitol Hill Occupied Protest" zone is guarded by a dwindling number of protesters. This afternoon, Mayor Jenny Durkan met with some protesters to try to negotiate an end to the stand-off. (Photo by Toby Scott/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

(Photo by Toby Scott/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

As most of you know, the city of Seattle is being sued by the families of two young men killed in the CHOP on Capitol Hill in 2020 for the city’s lack of police in the area due to the abandonment of the East Precinct.

The family of Lorenzo Anderson, who was shot June 20 at 10th Avenue and East Pine Street, argued in federal court on Monday that the city was at fault and taxpayers must be held liable.

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Not only because paramedics were prevented from helping the victim – but because the CHOP, or Capitol Hill Occupied Protest, had become a “no cop zone” that invited lawlessness and created a foreseeable danger. The lawsuit argues that the lack of police in the area allowed the shooting to happen.

And from the oral arguments I heard, it sounded like the court was inclined to agree.

But here’s what surprises me: in all the public discussion about the lawlessness in the CHOP, one very important part of the story is rarely mentioned, the actual shooters – and the people who helped them.

The city of Seattle may have been negligent, but the city didn’t fire those bullets.

It turns out the suspect, now under arrest for the shooting of Lorenzo Anderson – had been feuding with Anderson for a long time. There was even a viral YouTube video of their fight. So a lot of people knew about it.

The people with the shooter the night he went to the CHOP to confront Anderson knew he had a gun because the video shows he drew it in front of them. Did they try to stop him? Did any of the people who saw that video and who knew about the feud call the police or try to disarm the guy? I think those are important questions too.

Law and order means holding criminals accountable – not giving them excuses.

The city screwed up in abandoning the East Precinct – I think we all agree on that – but that’s no excuse for murder.

And I would not want to hear the killer of Lorenzo Anderson, or the killer who shot 16-year-old Antonio Mays in the CHOP a week later – claiming that the city made them do it by “inviting lawlessness.” And I am not against the family’s lawsuit; on the contrary. If they win on the grounds that the CHOP was a no-cop zone, that would be like a direct order to the city of Seattle to get serious about shootings.

With the current police shortage, you could argue that parts of the city are still a no-cop zone and that taxpayers could therefore be held liable for any shootings anywhere within the city limits. The mayor could then announce a relentless campaign, in cooperation with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, to enforce the law, hunt down, arrest, and disarm anyone illegally in possession of a weapon, and to shut down any dealers who consistently look the other way.

It might be expensive to hire all those investigators – but a lot cheaper than losing an endless string of lawsuits.

Listen to Seattle’sMorning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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