Adrian Diaz, interim police chief of Seattle, called 2020 a year like no other, saying on Monday that his department’s homicide detectors investigated 50 murders in the past year, up 61% from the 31 people who died in 2019 due to violence the city were killed.
Citing data showing that the number of murders across the country increased 36% year over year in 2020, Diaz said the 50 murders in Seattle were the most widely investigated in the city in 26 years.
Sgt.Randy Huserik, a spokesman for the Seattle Police Department (SPD), said the number did not include the investigation into the double-shootings of Jessica Lewis, 35, and her friend Austin Wenner, 27, in June, whose dismembered bodies were found in multiple bags that washed ashore at Alki Beach. Although their deaths were investigated by SPD homicide detectors, it was found that they were killed in Burien. In August, King County attorneys accused the couple’s landlord, Michael Lee Dudley, of two second degree homicide cases.
Also excluded from the count are two men, Shaun Fuhr and Terry Caver, who were killed in confrontations with Seattle police last year, Huserik said.
According to a database compiled by the Seattle Times that tracked murders committed in King County since 2016, there were 48 murder victims in Seattle in 2020 and two others killed in gunfights by officials. The newspaper counts the deaths of Lewis and Wenner.
The discrepancy between the murder record of the SPD and that of the newspaper could not be reconciled immediately.
Total homicides in Seattle
2020 – 50 murders (plus 61%)
2019 – 31 murders
Diaz praised crime scene officials, detectives and investigators for their work in bringing justice to the families of those killed and said in most cases suspects have been identified or arrested.
Most of the victims of the murder last year were men between 18 and 49 years old, and 49% of the victims were black, the boss said. Black people are historically over-represented among murder victims: only about 7% of the Seattle population are black.
60 percent of the 50 murders were committed with firearms, up from 66 percent in 2019, Diaz said.
Homicides in Seattle with a gun
2020– 60% of all murders
2019 – 66% of all murders
Seven of the murders were the result of domestic violence, one more than in 2019, the boss said.
“I’m not going to go into the various theories I know of why we and other cities have seen such a big one year increase. There’s no clear explanation, ”said Diaz, noting that the coronavirus pandemic led to business and school closings and saw that most people radically changed their behavior due to home orders.
Due to the extraordinary events in 2020, Diaz said he didn’t put much emphasis on the year-over-year increase in murders compared to longer-term crime statistics.
But he said Seattle police officers removed more than 1,000 firearms from the streets for the fourth year in a row. They also continue to collect cartridges from filming scenes and submit data to the Shots Fired project, led by King County’s attorneys. This project has been collecting shooting data since 2017 with the aim of identifying trends and informing public health programs to intervene in the lives of people considered most at risk of becoming victims or perpetrators of gun violence.
Of the SPD cases presented to the National Integrated Ballistics Information Network operated by the Federal Office for Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and used to identify cartridge cases that were fired from the same weapon, 240 cases became with others linked shootings. Of these, more than 150 were directly related to crimes in Seattle, Diaz said.
He said police are working with King County attorneys, federal attorneys and the ATF to renew regional task forces to get dangerous people off the streets while they work with public health officials to prevent and target gun violence react.
“We’re focusing on the people we know are carrying guns, firing shots and pulling the trigger,” said Diaz. “We know that association with weapons increases the risk of being injured or killed. To build the community capacity that can prevent future violence, we must stop the bleeding immediately. “
By the end of 2020, the SPD had started trending the number of shootings down, and Diaz said the police officers were determined to do their part to reduce gun violence.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that 69% of murder victims in 2019 were killed with firearms. 66% of these victims died from gunfire.