Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Capitol Hill Massacre

25th March 2006

This day in history...A gunman kills six people before taking his own life at a party in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighbourhood

Today's event is another tragic gun crime story that reiterates the concerns and challenges that I mentioned in The Dunblane Massacre blog  a few days ago. Recorded massacres in America go as far back as 1770 with the Boston Massacre, and have multiplied over the past 300 odd years into the present day. The Capitol Hill Massacre was an example of a 'Single Perpetrator event and shooting spree' and is number 91 out of 106 that have occurred in America from 1863 - 2013. So lets take a look at today's event and the history leading up to the devastating incident.

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The house- crime scene
The perpetrator: 28 year old Kyle Aaron Huff (Sep 22nd, 1997 - March 25th 2006). Huff claimed he attended The Art Institute of Seattle and North Seattle Community College, although there are no records to confirm this. Huff had been previously arrested for shooting a public arts project and for being involved in a brawl at the Lobo Saloon in 2004. His firearms were seized by police but returned after his restitution and fine had been paid. Huff moved to Seattle from his hometown of Whitefish, Montana, with his twin identical brother Kane, 5 years before the shooting. Residents described him as a well-liked person. 

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Kyle Aaron Huff
The Massacre: March 24th 2006, a "Better off Undead" event was held at the Capitol Hill Arts Center, CHAC. Huff attended the rave, despite never attending one before. He was not known in Seattle's rave scene and very few people knew him or interacted with him at CHAC. He did however receive a last minute invite to an after party of the rave. So between 4am and 6am on March 25th, Huff left to attend the party. He didn't know anyone there and was described as quiet, but spoke pleasantly with everyone. Nobody recalled him leaving and there was no unusual or belligerent behaviour by Huff. 

He left the house, went to his truck parked nearby and took out a 12 gauge pistol-grip Winchester 1300 Defender Shotgun and a 40-caliber semiautomatic Ruger p944 handgun and several  bandoilers worth of ammunition. When returning to the party, Huff spray-painted the word "NOW" on the pavement and on the steps of a neighbouring home. When he approached the house he shot 5 victims who were outside; 2 on the steps, 3 in the porch. He then forced his way through the front door and shot 2 more people on the first floor. He apparently shouted "There's plenty for everyone" as he made his way around the house. On the second floor he fired through the locked door of a bathroom where a couple had taken refuge in the bath; neither person was hit. At least 1 other victim was injured during the shooting, and at least one died at the hospital.

 The shooting lasted  5 minutes inside the house. A patrol officer, Steve Leonard, heard the shots nearby and headed to the scene calling for 911 backup. When he arrived, he found the injured victims outside the house. As Huff was coming down the steps, the officer started to demand that Huff drop his weapon, however before Leonard could finish his command, Huff placed the gun in his mouth and shot himself through the head.

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Removing Huff's body 
Aftermath: Following the shooting, Police raided Huff's truck to find a rifle, another handgun, several more boxes of ammunition, a baseball bat and a machete. The police also received a search warrant for Huff's North Seattle apartment, where they found more weapons. They took Huff's identical twin, Kane, into custody, questioned him and then later released him. Huff's motives are still not completely known but police have a pretty good idea as to why Huff did what he did. A month after the shootings, a possible bomb was found in a rubbish bin about a mile away from Huff's apartment. This turned out to just be modelling clay and wires, however a handwritten note was found in the same bin apparently written by Huff. The letter was on stationary found in Huff's apartment and matched his writing. The letter was dated two days before the shootings and was very specific in expressing his anger about young ravers and their provocative lifestyles. Huff explained how he hated their sexual freedom and that the things young ravers did and said were too disturbing for him to live with. The letter ended with the quote "Now, kids, Now", which ties in with the "Now" that Huff had spray-painted. It is suggested that the Nirvana song "I Want to Know Now" with the chorus of "now, now, now, now" influenced Huff's message. 

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"NOW" spray painted on the steps 
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Will remove at owner's request.

The Letter

Legacy: Many who had attended the CHAC event learned of the shooting the day after it happened via a local rave website. People that were posting on the website were first hand accounts from survivors. On March 28th, the Church Council of Greater Seattle, led by Rev. Sanford Brown, held an interfaith prayer service at the site of the mass murder. 500 people turned up to show their respects. 
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The victims
The victims:

  • Melissa Moore, 14
  • Suzanne Thorne, 15
  • Justin "Sushi" Schwartz, 22
  • Christopher "Deacon" Williamson, 21
  • Jeremy Marin, 26
  • Jason Travers, 32

Immediately after the killings, the Seattle Times called for tighter regulation of late-night activities of the under-aged. This view, however, was deeply opposed by the alternative weekly paper The Stranger. Whilst the Seattle Times thought that more monitoring was needed and security to be re-examined and re-tooled, The Stranger believed that it wasn't about the raves it was about a man who decided he was going to kill people and had the fire-power to do it. The mother of victim Christopher Williamson said that she would do everything in her power to make sure the raves continued, as it was what Chris loved most. The arguments following the shootings were heavily focused on under-age late-night activities and curfews etc. There was hardly any argument or thoughts into the fact that it was a gun crime and that Huff was able to kill all those people due to the amount of guns that he had in his possession.

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The Weapons found in Huff's truck
A memorial has been built to commemorate the victims and even Kyle Huff. The memorial has 7 sides; 6 representing the victims; and 1 side with a cracked mirror to represent Huff. The house where the shootings took place has been cleaned and renovated and the tenants who live there know what has happened. They don't mind at all and say that the house has no bad vibes and that they are happy there. Of course, many people still drive past today to have a look at the crime scene. 

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Memorial Service
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The memorial

What are your thoughts on the Capitol Hill Massacre? Leave your comments below
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