SEATTLE -- A pre-dawn shooting in a park in Seattle's protest zone killed a 19-year-old man and critically injured another person, authorities said Saturday.
The shooting happened about 2:30 a.m. in the area near the city's downtown that is known as CHOP, which stands for “Capitol Hill Occupied Protest," police said.
Officers responding to the shooting initially said they had trouble getting to the scene because they were "were met by a violent crowd that prevented officers safe access to the victims,” police said on their blog. Video released later in the day by the Seattle Police appears to show officers arriving at the protest zone saying they want to get to the victim and entering as people yell at them that the victim is already gone.
Two males with gunshot wounds arrived in private vehicles at Harborview Medical Center about 3 a.m., hospital spokesperson Susan Gregg said. The 19-year-old man died, and the other person was in critical condition in the intensive care unit.
The suspect or suspects fled. Investigators had no description of the shooter or shooters as of Saturday afternoon, police said.
“Homicide detectives responded and are conducting a thorough investigation, despite the challenges presented by the circumstances,” police said.
The CHOP zone is an area where protesters cordoned off several blocks near a police station in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood following demonstrations against police violence since the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis several weeks ago.
Seattle police largely retreated from the zone after clashes with protesters ended with people throwing things at police and police tear-gassing people and using other crowd control munitions. Protesters and others have said the police overreacted. City officials have said they are still communicating with protest leaders, who had pledged to keep the peace in the zone.
The president of the union representing more than 1,000 of Seattle's police officers, Mike Solan, told Fox News that "violence has now besieged the area known as CHOP, and it is no longer the summer of love, it's the summer of chaos.”
Hours after the shooting, the scene in the protest zone was quiet. People pushed baby strollers, and other visitors milled about in the cool, cloudy weather, taking photos of themselves with CHOP signs.
Protest organizers held a meeting to discuss the early morning shootings, and some protest volunteers patrolled the area carrying guns. They did not interfere with anyone entering or leaving the zone.
Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant expressed her condolences and said the man who died was Black.
“Socialist Alternative and I stand in solidarity with the family and friends of the victim, and with the injured protester now in the hospital, as well as with all community members and fellow activists,” she said.
The zone has drawn the continued ire of President Donald Trump. His tweets about possibly sending in the military have been met with condemnation from Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and Gov. Jay Inslee, both Democrats.
Asked about the shooting Saturday, Inslee said “we need to have a way for the community to have a way to speak and for police and fire services to be provided.”
Inslee added: “One way or another we obviously need to provide a way to offer protection for people, and that’s a necessity."
AP photographer Ted Warren contributed from Seattle.