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What really happened in the Jungle Tuesday?

Police are gathered at the scene of an officer-involved shooting on Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2016, at Airport Way South and South Bayview Street, near the "Jungle" homeless encampment that was being cleared out to relocate its residents. Two people were reported with injuries, one critical, one minor. (Genna Martin/seattlepi.com via AP)

A Seattle police officer shot and killed a homeless man near the Jungle Tuesday afternoon. We’re told by city officials that the Jungle shooting had nothing to do with the sweep that was happening at the same time. But does that really make sense to you?

I have my own sources in the Seattle Police Department, and I’ve heard a different story.

Officer-involved shooting near Jungle sweep

Outreach workers with the Union Gospel Mission, officials with the Washington State Department of Transportation and Seattle police went into the East Duwamish Greenbelt Tuesday morning to give final notice to the people living there. “East Duwamish Greenbelt” is the the city’s name for what everyone else calls the Jungle — a stretch along I-5 through Seattle where multiple homeless encampments have existed for years. Campers were notified last month that the Jungle was going to be cleared and would be turned into a construction site. There’s a lot of maintenance work that needs to be done under and on I-5.

Around 12:45 p.m. Tuesday, two men got into a fight. A knife was drawn. And an officer intervened, ultimately shooting and killing the man with a knife. The other homeless man was treated for a stab wound.

Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole said “…this altercation did not relate in any way to the operation that was ongoing earlier (Tuesday). It was coincidental that the officers witnessed this altercation, intervened trying to separate the individuals and discovering one of them was armed with a knife.”

Really?

In my opinion, this shooting did have something to do with the Jungle sweep. According to my sources, the officers involved were part of the outreach team, and were in the Jungle when it happened. Chief O’Toole wouldn’t come on my show to talk about it, but I have my own sources in the police department. They tell me the two officers involved in the incident were a captain and a sergeant. They say they were part of the outreach effort in the Jungle that morning.

I’m told the African American sergeant who fired the shot knew the homeless man in question. That homeless man, of Asian decent, was  coming at the captain at the time of the shooting. It was very hard for her to pull the trigger and take a life.

I can’t speak for Chief O’Toole. The people in the Jungle were not being asked to leave by gunpoint if that is what she means by “not relating” to the operation in the Jungle. Police were not forcing people out. There was outreach going on. But this incident did happen amid all the outreach activity.

My sources tell me that there were 13 people down there who weren’t leaving and who were very agitated and weren’t listening to police officers. One particular guy in the wooded area around I-5, according to my sources, was in and out of the camp and was really agitated all morning. He went to a convenience store and bought some beers — I guess open container laws don’t matter in the Jungle. He was down there agitating Union Gospel Mission members, SPD officers, officials with the fire department, and other workers. The next thing you know he turned on another gentleman in the camp and decided he was going to stab him to death.

And even though the chief says it was not related to the operation, the Seattle police blog indicates that they were working in the Jungle:

Two veteran officers were in a wooded area east of Airport Way South and South Stacy Street when they became aware of two men involved in an altercation. One of the men was armed with a knife. Officers attempted to separate the individuals. During the encounter, one of the officers discharged her weapon, striking the man with the knife.

And Seattle Mayor Ed Murray seems to believe the Jungle played a role as well.

“…the Seattle Police Department is investigating an officer-involved shooting today in the East Duwamish Greenbelt,” Murray said in a statement released Tuesday night.

And for a shooting that had nothing to do with the operation, Murray still felt the need to further say that “today’s operation in the greenbelt was needed, both because of the long history of public safety issues in the area and because of long-overdue work the Washington State Department of Transportation needs to do on Interstate 5.”

The Jungle should be swept out. No one should be living in there. In fact, it should have been swept long ago. This place should have been cleaned up a long time ago, and no one should have been shot, and a police officer shouldn’t have had to pull their Glock out. But the city has been doing little regarding the matter.

KIRO Radio reporter Josh Kerns was on the Ron and Don Show after the shooting Tuesday. He offered an interesting insight:

There is little police presence down in the Jungle on a regular basis. Police are basically neutered here. They have been tied by city policies. I have had several veteran officers who have dealt with the Jungle tell me they are no longer doing anything involving homeless – unless they are called to a crime that has been committed. Before, they were doing outreach with the homeless. Offering help to get them in contact with services.

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