Three Teens Have Been Arrested After a Mass Shooting in a Seattle Homeless Camp

Suspects in the attack that killed two and injured three at a park called 'The Jungle' last week are 13, 16, and 17 years old.

by Matt Taylor
Feb 2 2016, 8:00pm

The homeless camp known as "The Jungle" in Seattle on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

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The Jungle is a muddy village perched under an interstate south of downtown Seattle, a bleak testament to the northwestern city's struggle to provide assistance to its surging homeless population.

Last week, it was also the site of a mass shooting that left two people dead, three wounded, and ultimately led to the arrest of a trio of local teenagers.

"There are no outstanding suspects that we're aware of," Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O'Toole said after the arrests Monday.

According to the King County Medical Examiner, 33-year-old James Tran and 45-year-old Jennine Brooks (or Zapata) were killed when an armed group—one witness told a local NBC affiliate at least six people showed up on bikes wearing black—opened fire around 7:15 PM on January 26. Police believe the shooting stemmed from a drug beef, as the Associated Press reported.

Cops are not releasing names of the three arrestees—boys who are 13, 16, and 17—nor have they indicated whether the trio lived in The Jungle. Police reportedly recovered a gun at the time of the arrest, which took place at another local homeless encampment. The shooting came at a tricky moment for Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, who, as the Washington Post reported, was in the midst of an aggressive public campaign to combat homelessness when a horrific episode of gun violence got in the way.

The Jungle's official name is the East Duwamish Greenbelt, but it's gone by the nickname—derived from "hobo jungles"—for decades, possibly since the Depression era in 1930s. "You've got that constant traffic drone sound," Tim Harris, founding director of Real Change Homeless Empowerment Project, told a local NPR affiliate. "When you're underneath the freeway, you see the freeway maybe 50 feet overhead. There are these big pillars. There's lot of shrubs and vegetation."

Seattle and King County as a whole have seen an influx of money pumped into the local economy by the tech sector, including billion-dollar behemoths Microsoft and Amazon. And thanks to raucous anti-WTO protests in 1999 and the more recent election of an avowed Socialist to its city council, the city enjoys a reputation as a place where left-wing politics reign. But despite passing a $15 minimum wage in 2014—which is still being phased in—officials haven't been able to get a handle on systemic poverty. The local homeless population has risen 19 percent since last year, according to one recent tally.

During a summer marked by what cops said was an uptick in gang shootings, city lawmakers went so far as to pass a "gun violence tax," which was upheld in the face of legal challenge from gun rights groups in December. Murray declared a state of emergency in the fall after the medical examiner reported dozens of homeless people died between January and September. That brought millions in additional cash to help the needy, but last week's shooting had the mayor second-guessing himself.

"Maybe I should have issued the state of emergency months earlier," Murray told reporters. "We've tried to do the best that we can given the circumstances we have, but obviously I'm going to question, was I good enough at my own job. It's on me in the end."

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