Seattle area en route to see record number of shootings in 2020
If the trend continues, Seattle will likely a set record number of shootings in the city over 2020. King County is also seeing the considerable spike in gun-related incidents.
Law enforcement says it’s unclear why that is. Gun control advocates want to see more research on the issue.
Adriel Webb, 18, was shot and killed on July 20 at a gas station in the Central District. Webb had just graduated high school.
“He was just a great kid so you know obviously it hurts," said Rick Newell, Executive Director of Mentoring Urban Students and Teens.
Webb was mentored by M.U.S.T. through high school and graduated on time to go to college.
“He texted me the Saturday before he was killed that everything was … he had filled out everything for Highline and he was scheduled to go there, he wanted to study engineering,” Newell said.
Two other people were injured in that night’s shooting. So far no one has been charged. The next night – shortly after a vigil was held for Webb -- another shooting in the area left one person dead and another injured.
Back-to-back shootings in a month that already saw a lot of gun violence in Seattle.
Seattle police say there were more gun incidents this July than any month since 2012. So far in 2020, reports of shots fired are up 14% compared to this time last year.
Gun violence is also up across King County.
“This could be our highest year ever of the homicide rate in King County,” King County Sheriff's Office Sargent Ryan Abbott said.
Abbott says last year, for all of 2019, there were 18 gun homicides. There are already 17 so far in 2020. Abbott says the county is on pace to increase that quite a bit.
Each number has a personal story, like Adriel Webb. Mentor Rick Newall says they’re still making sense of the young graduate’s death.
“You know, some kids sadly, when they get shot, it sort of makes sense just because of who they're hanging out with and where they spend their time and what they do but with Adriel, it doesn't make sense.”
A GoFundMe page has been set up for donations to Adriel Webb’s family.
Factors in the shooting surge
So why is 2020 seeing a jump in gun injuries?
There are a few factors that could be contributing, starting with the summer season which Abbott says is a time that always sees an increase in gun crimes and shootings.
“Most of that is due to the warm weather," Abbott said. "A lot of more people are outside. You know, we also have the juveniles that aren't in school in the summer months. So a lot of them are outside later and that's when we start to see a lot more violence.”
Summertime in 2020 is layered with tensions stemming from a global pandemic, economic strife, and mass protests.
Factors that could also lead to a surge in gun sales this year throughout western Washington.
Researching gun incidents in Seattle
That has the attention of Margaret Heldring, one of the co-chairs of Grandmothers Against Gun Violence in Seattle.
“Yes, indeed we have noticed that it's of tremendous concern,” Heldring said.
Heldring says not enough is known about how to prevent gun injuries in the U.S. The Grandmothers are lobbying for more investment into researching injuries as a public health crisis.
“The absence of research in the absence of evidence that tells us what works, what doesn't work and the absence of that we all flounder we don't really know what to do.”
Soon, new research will be focused on Seattle. The University Of Washington School Of Medicine announced this month that it will co-lead a new study specifically on gun injuries in the country.
“So the CDC has good data on a number of deaths that occur from firearm injuries," said UW researcher Dr. Fred Rivara. "But there are no good national data on a number of people who are injured and don't die.”
The three year study starts next month and will take information from the trauma centers at Harborview and others around the United States.
Rivara says the overall goal is to prevent gun injuries.
“So you can really better understand who is really at risk of fire and injuries and not just fire on deaths and the characteristics of those may be quite different and we don't have really good data on that,” Rivara said.
That data could help make sense out of tragedies that affect hundreds every day.
Correction, 12:30 p.m., 9/14/2020: An earlier version of this story omitted the fact that a shooting on July 21 left one person dead, in addition to another injured. That shooting occurred after a vigil for another gun violence victim.