On Edge After Homeless Homicide

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After several audible gun shots, surveillance footage shows a car speeding down N. 96th St. late Sunday evening in Seattle’s Licton Springs neighborhood.

Authorities say a homeless man was shot to death at this problematic encampment. It’s unclear what triggered the violence, and the medical examiner’s office has yet to release the victim’s name. Police only say it’s a 38-year-old male, but multiple people on the street tell me it was ‘‘Geno.‘‘

‘‘Geno is his first name. Geno, I don’t know his last name. Yeah, he’s been a local homeless man in this area for 10 years,‘‘ says Ray Gosselin, who lives nearby. 

Neighbor Elizabeth Tafesse says they’re frustrated with the ongoing crime, thefts, and drug dealing associated with this rapidly growing encampment.  ‘‘Clear them out now,” she says. 

The encampment is near multiple town homes, businesses, and Clement Place, which provides supportive housing for people who used to be homeless.

‘‘I call the police 20 times, because every time I hear the gun shots I call the police,‘‘ says Tafesse.

For weeks now, neighbors have filed dozens of complaints with the city and have asked Mayor Bruce Harrell to prioritize this encampment for removal. 

Neighbors say so far they’ve only received canned emails from the city, and no timeline on when the homeless will be moved out.  

‘‘And it’s going to be one of us. You know,‘‘ says Tafesse. 

She shared her frustration with some of the officers on scene: ‘‘We can come home and get shot and killed. We don’t even know what to do anymore.‘‘  

The mayor’s Unified Care Team and the King County Regional Homelessness Authority are responsible for outreach before an encampment is cleared. 

I asked if anyone from the city’s been out here trying to help people get connected to services and shelter, but so far none of the agencies have answered my questions.

Neighbors also say they’re frustrated because Mayor Harrell has yet to publicly share any plan to get in front of encampments before they spiral out of control. Just a few weeks ago, there were only a handful of tents set up on N. 96th St. Now, there are more than 20. Cars belonging to some of the campers are also seen parked next to tents, clogging up the narrow street.

Along with shootings, neighbors have also complained about public urination and campers trying to steal water from these houses across the street. Some homeowners have taken matters into their own hands by putting locks on spigots and buying surveillance cameras.

‘‘They have to figure this situation out for sure,‘‘ says a neighbor who did not want to be identified, fearing retaliation from campers.

After this homicide, neighbors are now wondering what it will take for the mayor to finally take action.  One asks, “If it’s not this, I don’t know what will. Somebody died. Like, what else needs to happen?‘‘