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Family of 16-year-old killed in CHOP zone alleges Seattle’s failings enabled a 'state-created danger'

caption: From left, Antonio Mays Sr., Antonio Mays Jr. and Gerrie Herring, in 2017.
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From left, Antonio Mays Sr., Antonio Mays Jr. and Gerrie Herring, in 2017.
Courtesy of Antonio Mays Sr.

This story was co-published by KUOW and The Seattle Times.


atal shootings bookended a nine-day span in June 2020, each marred by the death of a Black teenager amid Seattle’s racial justice protests.

It was in those days, a new tort claim filed with the city of Seattle on Monday alleges, that city leadership should have recognized its failures to provide legally obligated medical, police, and emergency services to protesters demonstrating in the Capitol Hill Organized Protest zone. If they had, the claim states, the subsequent death of 16-year-old Antonio Mays Jr. might have been prevented.

It was not until after this incident that the city intervened at the protest zone, closing Cal Anderson Park and arresting at least 44 people as it cleared the zone following weeks of protest, tear gas assaults and the three-week desertion of Seattle’s East Police Precinct.

The tort claim — official notice of an impending lawsuit — was filed with the city clerk’s office Monday by Mays’ family, alleging the government’s breach of duty to be free from “state-created danger.” It does not specify a financial claim.

“There were horrible things going on over there and they didn’t do anything to shut it down,” said Evan Oshan, an attorney for the Mays family. “And it really was a result of the poor leadership in the city of Seattle — and just across the board.”

After the first night of gun violence, when 19-year-old Horace Lorenzo Anderson Jr. was shot in Capitol Hill in the early morning of June 20, Fire Department medics and police delayed entering the protest zone. The teenager was transported to the hospital in the back of a pickup truck before he was pronounced dead at Harborview Medical Center, but city and state leaders remained mostly silent about their responsibility immediately after the killing.

Just over a week later, Mays Jr. and a 14-year-old boy were shot multiple times while inside a white Jeep Cherokee, and again, public services were absent. Police did not arrive at the scene for nearly five hours, by which time the crime scene had been disturbed and partially cleaned, according to news reports and information relayed to the family.

Two years later, no one has been charged in association with Mays Jr.’s death. His father, Antonio Mays Sr., said police detectives have been unresponsive and told him the investigation was closed due to insufficient evidence. The city maintains its investigation is ongoing.

In a statement, Jamie Housen, a spokesperson for Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell, said, “The death of a child from gun violence is a tragedy that no family should have to endure.”

“Last thing I heard from them was encouragement not to talk to the media, not to talk to anybody, not to cause any ruckus or fuss or stigma or not to stir anything up and just sit back and be patient and wait,” Mays Sr. said. “But I am the dad, I am the father, I need answers and I need justice.”

The family’s tort claim also implicates Solomon "Raz" Simone, a local Seattle hip-hop artist, for his role as a “de facto police chief,” after the desertion of the East Precinct on Capitol Hill. While Oshan names Simone in the claim, he said the onus falls on city leadership for not intervening when Simone was allegedly handing out an assault rifle to his “makeshift police force.”

Simone said he had nothing to do with the death of Mays Jr., and that he only handed one gun out to his friend as a joke. This exchange, in which Simone handed a person an assault rifle from the trunk of a white Tesla, was captured in a YouTube video that became the center of controversy when it went viral.

“I don’t think that they’re wrong for coming at the [city of Seattle] like that at all,” Simone said. “I think that they’re wrong with how they’re trying to portray me.”

Simone has also been named a defendant in civil lawsuits, including one filed last year on behalf of five women who accused Simone of physical abuse and sex trafficking, a year after two of the plaintiffs told KUOW Public Radio that Simone had harmed them. Simone has repeatedly denied the claims and the lawsuit remains ongoing.

Monday’s tort claim is the latest in a slew of lawsuits filed in relation to the city’s handling of the racial justice protests two years ago.

Seattle last month settled a wrongful-death lawsuit for $500,000 from the family of Anderson, who was shot and killed in the protest zone. A federal lawsuit by a group of businesses, developers and residents who claimed “extensive harm” by the city’s failure to break up the CHOP remains active, although it was denied class-action status in May.

Seattle also faces multiple lawsuits from protesters who said they were hurt by police, including the family of a then-7-year-old boy who was doused with pepper spray.

And critics point to a lack of transparency regarding Seattle city leadership’s handling of CHOP. Many of the text messages key officials sent during this period went missing, including 2,000 messages that could not be retrieved from former Mayor Jenny Durkan’s cell phone. The city recently agreed to settle a lawsuit with The Seattle Times for $200,000 and promised to improve its public records process.

But the signs of discord were already becoming apparent when Antonio Mays Jr. left his home in California to protest in Seattle two years ago, despite his father discouraging him from going.

“He went to Seattle because the whole nation was in an uproar about civil rights and I raised my kids about what it means to be Black and what we are up against as Black men and women, young and old,” said Mays Sr.

“My son was a kindhearted young man,” his father said Monday, intermittently sobbing into the telephone line. “He cared about people. He cared about Black history. He cared about the civil rights movements of the past and the present. And he cared about Black folks and their future.”

Mays Sr. had been preparing his son to take over the family’s BBQ sauce business, a popular brand carried in Southern California grocery stores, traveling across the state since his son was a toddler learning the soup-to-nuts of the business from cooking to customer service, envisioning his son taking over after attending college.

Now, “I daydream and I envision my son in a hospital,” he said. “If you have never lost a child, there is no support for that, nobody can say anything.”

Ashley Hiruko: 206-574-8007 or

Rebecca Moss:; on Twitter: @rebeccakmoss. Rebecca Moss is an investigative reporter at The Seattle Times.

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