Investigators see signs of gang ties in Lake Sammamish State Park shootings

July 18, 2010

By Warren Kagarise

UPDATED — 5:40 p.m. July 18, 2010

Though investigators continue to comb Lake Sammamish State Park for evidence from the deadly shootings at a picnic area Saturday night, early indicators point to bad blood between rival gangs as a possible cause.

The shooting inside the park at dusk left two men dead and another four men injured. The shootout erupted after a dispute between two men from rival groups picnicking at the park. The cause of the argument remained unknown Sunday, although alcohol could have been a factor in the incident.

“It could be as simple as a gang rivalry, but we don’t know that for a fact,” Sgt. John Urquhart, King County Sheriff’s Office spokesman, said Sunday afternoon.

The groups — including the shooting victims, friends, family members and children — arrived at the park Saturday and set up separate picnic sites about 200 feet apart, Urquhart said.

Both groups also included members with gang affiliations. Members of the groups came to the park heavily armed.

The rival groups included many members of Asian descent, though Urquhart said the fatalities included a white man. Police believe he could have been a shooter.

Urquhart described the deceased men as a 30-year-old Seattle man and a 33-year-old Kent man. The names of the men had not been released King County Medical Examiner’s Office by Sunday afternoon.

In the chaotic moments during the gun battle, a park goer barricaded him- or herself in a park bathroom and a Washington State Patrol dispatcher heard a gunshot in the background as a park ranger called for assistance.

Police took six people into custody Saturday night, including a man booked in to the King County Jail on unrelated warrants. Urquhart said no arrests had been made in the case by Sunday afternoon.

Officers from four law enforcement agencies — the state patrol, sheriff’s office and police departments from Issaquah and Bellevue — locked down the park and detained park goers for questioning. The last visitors left the park at about midnight.

UW Medicine spokesman Brian Donohue said three shooting victims remained at Harborview on Sunday, including a man and a juvenile male in satisfactory condition, and another man in serious condition.

Medics transported the fourth man to Overlake Hospital Medical Center in Bellevue. He was treated and released Saturday night, hospital spokeswoman Karen Johnson said.

Investigators believed suspects had stashed guns in the park in the frantic moments after the shooting. Officers recovered four guns and at least 20 spent cartridges in the park Sunday afternoon.

Yellow police tape and orange traffic cones blocked the entrance to the popular park from Northwest Sammamish Road on Sunday. Investigators expected the park to remain closed for most of the day as the sheriff’s office pieced together the events leading up to the sunset shootings.

Urquhart said the sheriff’s office had about 40 people scouring the park for evidence in the picnic area and nearby overgrowth. The team included sheriff’s office and Seattle Police Department bomb-sniffing dogs brought in to detect the cartridges.

Sandy Mealing, a spokeswoman for the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, said the shootings marked the first such incident to occur in a state park in recent memory. Mealing said state parks rarely close as a result of criminal activity.

Lake Sammamish State Park employees had met with a ranger trained in counseling. Mealing said a psychologist contracted by the agency to aid park employees after tragedies plans to meet the group as well.

Employees — including the rangers on duty Saturday — reported for work Sunday to assist investigators and to conduct routine maintenance.

The state parks agency defers to local law enforcement in criminal cases.

“Because it is a day-use park, and because of where it happened, that’s where people would go to recreate,” so the sheriff’s office felt the park should be closed during the investigation, Mealing said.

Regulations allow firearms in Lake Sammamish and other state parks, as long as the owner has a concealed-weapons permit and obeys park rules. Discharging a firearm is prohibited in state parks. Alcohol is also allowed in designated areas of some state parks, including the picnic area at Lake Sammamish State Park.

More than 1 million people visit the 512-acre lakefront park during the summer months for hiking, picnicking and swimming.

The daylong park closure forced at least one group to change plans. 5th District Democrats had planned a summer picnic at the park, but hastily relocated the event to state Rep. Marcie Maxwell’s waterfront Renton home. Congressman Jay Inslee had been scheduled to address the group.

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Comments

9 Responses to “Investigators see signs of gang ties in Lake Sammamish State Park shootings”

  1. Anonymous on July 18th, 2010 1:48 pm

    cops were there at 8 p.m. pulling people over at the park gate for going 5 mph over the speed limit. They could have been walking around the very large crowd looking for potential situation like this before they happened. Was a lot of drinking and large groups of people. I guess make a quota on traffic tickets is more important than people lives.

  2. gonewiththewind on July 18th, 2010 3:00 pm

    Management must have directed the officers to do traffic, management gets paid the big bucks (over $100,000 dollars) to make the smart decisions about how best to use resources / priorities (sarcasm here).

    I agree, KC / Parks management should have instructed the officers to do lots of foot patrol in the park, people must have complained about traffic and management wants to take care of the “squeaky wheels” rather than use scarce resources wisely and keep the Public Safe. I’m so glad no kids just enjoying the park got hurt but may not be so lucky next time. Thumbs down to King County Management for not using resources wisely, and to Dow / the Council for not funding enough Public Safety resources to take care of the gang problem (by the way, some of the guns might have been stolen from homes – but the County won’t be working property crimes once the cuts are made to officers / detectives / prosecutors.

  3. tiredofcrime on July 18th, 2010 3:41 pm

    Why is the county paying Urqhart overtime to get called in, he probably makes over $100,000 without the OT already! All the KC Sheriff upper management needs to be trained as his back up when he is off duty, NO MORE OT FOR A PR PERSON, WE NEED THE SCARCE TAX DOLLARS TO GO TOWARD POLICE AND DETECTIVES! In fact, eliminate the position and just rotate the responsibilites between KC Mangers, probably save at least $150,000++ in wages and benefits. Here the KC Audit staff is fretting over scales when this is where the real cost savings are, maybe we need to get rid of the KC Audit staff too – put that money towards officers / detectives / prosecutors. KC (Sheriff) Managers may know police work, but can be clueless when it comes to how best to management budgets and people.

  4. Hui 'O Honolulu on July 18th, 2010 8:43 pm

    I live right across the water (Samm. Beach Club), and of the eight years I’ve lived here I haven’t heard such a thing happenening over there! I go running 3-5 times a week & Lake Samm. State Park is one of the places I choose to go to because of the beautiful & spaciouos atmosphere! I was very shocked to here what had happened and hopefully it will never happen again! It’s such a lovely park and I hope it remains peaceful and for all to enjoy all year round. Gang or not, everyone needs to get along, especially in a public recreation area.

  5. C on July 19th, 2010 2:54 am

    I usually take my dogs to LSSP a few times a wk. Now I’m too scared to continue to do so. I was going to walk them in the park on Saturday evening in fact, but luckily, I was having car troubles. Also, I hesitate anyway on the weekends in the summer too because of the crowds. I see now my hesitation is a good thing. I agree that when there’s a large crowd in any park, there should be patrol officers checking things out. Big crowds are intense and can get out of control quickly once something sets things off. I guess the police and park rangers didn’t think anything serious would happen because it’s never happened there before. I’m not going to enjoy walking around the park anymore I don’t think. I feel sorry for all involved though–life’s too short anyway. Unnecessary aggression and violence often permanently puts out the flame and destroys the wick before the candle has a chance to fully burn. I also feel for the park rangers–things will never be the same for them either.
    God bless those who were killed, injured and affected in some way. Jeez…poor kids there that evening! What must they be thinking about the world…or just their Issaquah neighborhood? Thank you

  6. John2 on July 19th, 2010 3:37 am

    I bet you there was not one CW license in the group….

  7. Linda Brown on July 19th, 2010 5:33 am

    Hello
    Any park is dangerous. Remember Ted Bundy killed two women in one day from that same park. It is not safe when your a woman to jog in a park alone. Two women were killed in Califonia recently . How about the Trailside killer waiting for you? You know you need to realise there are evil people all over the united States . Check the crime sites. You are not safe any where.

  8. bawstonboy on July 19th, 2010 3:52 pm

    I have to agree with “anonymous” on this one. Issaquah police drumming up revenue by speed traps seems to be the focus of police work I have witnessed here since moving to area last November. While away on east coast my wife was approached by 3 bears. Three bears yes. Not far up on Traditional plateau. Frantically she called 911 and tells me via phone “they (Issaquah police) were too busy catching speeders to be worried about such things” This is a Joke we have had between ourselves since being new here.She was appropriately directed to Wildlife Management. Constructively I might suggest police on bikes or better yet horseback showing a presence in Samammish Park and/or other areas.It may restore (if nothing more) a renewed confidence in our safety officers primary purpose..protection of the public .

  9. Greg on July 19th, 2010 11:22 pm

    Cops are nothing more than revenue agents anymore!

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