Terrorist attack in Seattle: Muslim gunman kills one wounds 5 at Jewish Federation building shouting "I hate Israel"
July 29, 2006
By Seattle Times staff
The gunman who forced his way into the offices of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle on Friday afternoon put a gun to the head of a 13-year-old girl to gain entry to the building, police said this afternoon.
The man who described himself as a Muslim American angry with Israel then opened fire with two handguns, killing one woman and wounding five others before surrendering to police.
The dead woman was identified this morning as Pamela Waechter, 58.
At a news conference this afternoon, Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske said the gunman was stopped on a minor traffic violation, he had been driving down a street exclusively used by buses, about a half hour before the shooting. He said he did nothing to arouse the officer's suspicions.
The man then presumably drove to the federation building, where he hid behind a plant in the lobby for a short time. Kerlikowske said he waited for someone to come in to gain access into the office. When the 13-year-old girl walked up, he put a gun to her head and forced her to take him inside.
"She could not have kept him out," Kerlikowske said. "She was a hostage." The man carried two semi-automatic handguns and extra ammunition into the federation's offices, the chief said.
"Once inside he immediately started firing at people."
Jewish Federation shooting
He rattled off anti-Israel slurs and commanded people not to dial 911. But shooting victim Dayna Klein, who is 17 weeks pregnant, ignored him. Her actions convinced Seattle police chief Gil Kerlikowske to call her a hero.
Seconds after being shot in the arm, she crawled across the floor toward a phone and called for help.
Within minutes police were at the building and the Everett man put down his two semi-automatic handguns and surrendered.
Kerlikowske also lauded two 911 dispatchers for their courage. "I was absolutely stunned by the level of calmness and coolness," said Kerlikowske, adding that he has listened to the minutes of 911 tapes.
Suspect Naveed Afzal Haq had recently lived in Everett. A law-enforcement source said Haq apparently has a history of mental illness. Haq, described as a studious loner, was raised in the Tri-Cities area and his family has close ties to the local Muslim community center. Court records show Haq has a charge of lewd conduct pending against him in Benton County.
In a bail hearing this afternoon, King County District Court Judge Barbara Linde set bail at $50 million and found probable cause that Haq could face one charge of first-degree murder and five charges of attempted-murder.
Prosecutors will meet next week to decide whether they'll pursue the death penalty, said spokesman Dan Donohoe.
Haq's public defender asked to waive his client's appearance, which the judge denied. Appearing in court, Haq was clean-shaven, shackled, and wearing a tight, white ultra security jail uniform.
This morning, officials at Harborview Medical Center said the three women critically injured in the gunfire have been upgraded from critical to serious condition.
Three of the victims underwent surgery Friday night. They are Layla Bush, 23, of Seattle; Christina Rexroad, 29, of Everett; and Cheryl Stumbo, 43, of Seattle. They are in the Intensive Care Unit, said Pamela Steele, hospital spokeswoman.
The two other victims, Dayna Klein, 37, of Seattle, and Carol Goldman, 35, of Seattle, remain in satisfactory condition.
Waechter grew up in Minneapolis, Minn., as a Lutheran, the daughter of a businessman. She converted to Judaism after marrying Bill Waechter, an airline pilot, and the couple moved to Seattle in 1979. After raising their two children, Waechter became a student at the University of Washington, graduating with a degree in nutrition.
She became much more active in the Jewish community than her husband, Bill Waechter, from whom she is now divorced. She worked at Jewish Family Service and later at the Jewish Federation, where she did outreach and fundraising. She rose from secretary to two-term president at Temple B'nai Torah.
The shooting came a day after the FBI had warned Jewish organizations nationwide to be on alert after Hezbollah leaders in Lebanon and al-Qaida's second in command urged that the war raging in the Middle East be carried to the U.S. However, the law-enforcement source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said there is no evidence that Haq was involved with any group.
"He said he hates Israel," said the source, who is part of the Seattle Joint Terrorism Task Force, which was called in to help investigate the shootings.
David Gomez, the assistant special agent-in-charge of the Seattle FBI office, said there is "nothing to indicate he is part of a larger organization."
"We believe he is a lone individual with antagonism toward this organization," said Gomez.
Police and witnesses say the man forced his way through a security door just after 4 p.m. after an employee had keyed in the access code. He began firing indiscriminately with a semiautomatic 9-mm handgun. The man announced he was a Muslim American as he began shooting, according to people who talked to the survivors. Seattle Police Assistant Chief Nick Metz said there were at least 18 people in the offices when the shooting started. Many fled out a back door as the gunfire erupted.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, founded in 1926, is an umbrella organization for the local Jewish community. It raises money for Jewish social-welfare organizations, runs youth and adult Jewish educational programs, and engages in efforts in support of Israel. The federation's mission is to ensure Jewish survival and enhance the quality of Jewish life locally, in Israel and worldwide.
The center is located on Third Avenue between Lenora and Virginia streets in Belltown.
Witnesses say the gunman shot one receptionist, then ordered her to dial 911. He then took the phone from her.
"He told the police that it was a hostage situation and he wanted us to get our weapons out of Israel," said one woman who works in the building and heard the account from the wounded co-worker.
During a news conference Friday night, Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske said that, based on the conversation Haq had with 911 dispatchers, police are treating the shootings as a hate crime.
U.S. Attorney John McKay said his office will review the information to determine if federal hate-crime charges will be filed.
The woman, who would not allow her name to be used, said she was at her desk when she heard what she thought were balloons popping.
"It went 'Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop!' and then we heard a woman scream," said the employee. The man surrendered about 15 minutes after the shooting started.
A Harborview Medical Center spokesman said all of the victims were women. Three were in critical condition and underwent surgery Friday evening. One of the victims was identified by family members as Bush. "We just heard she's alive a minute or two ago," said her mother, Kathryn Bush, from her home in Panama City, Fla. She was in critical condition Friday night.
Dozens of police responded and quickly cordoned off the area. At first, officers didn't know whether there was more than one shooters or how many people had been injured. Heavily armed SWAT officers searched "every room, closet and crawl space" in the two-story building, looking for additional suspects and victims, said police spokesman Rich Pruitt.
Members of the department's bomb squad swarmed around the suspect's white pickup, which was parked in a nearby lot. The vehicle was later impounded.
The law-enforcement source said Haq had a license to carry a concealed weapon, though not the weapon that was used in the shootings.
Federation employee Marla Meislin-Dietrich said security videotapes show the gunman shoved his way past another employee who had just entered a pass code to open a security door.
"He was armed and he pushed his way in," she said.
Amy Wasser-Simpson, the vice president for planning and community services for the Jewish Federation, said the man announced "I'm a Muslim American; I'm angry at Israel," then began shooting. Wasser-Simpson said she heard the account from staff members who witnessed the shootings.
Wasser-Simpson was not in the building because she was working from home. She is in charge of the organization at present because the federation's new chief executive officer has yet to start the job and the interim CEO is out of town.
Haq's parents and friends were stunned that he had been arrested and booked into the King County Jail for investigation of homicide. No criminal charges have been filed.
His 1994 yearbook photograph from Richland High School showed a smiling Haq with the words "Peace Be Unto You."
A man who answered the door Friday night at the Pasco home of Haq's parents said the house was a federal crime scene. The man, who would not identify himself, said the family was not available.
Hundreds of people have died in Israel and Lebanon since Lebanon-based Hezbollah guerrillas seized two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid July 12, prompting Israeli air strikes in Lebanon and a barrage of rockets fired at Israel by Hezbollah.
Friday night is the start of the Jewish Sabbath, and rabbis were trying to find out more about security in preparation for that night's services. Robert Jacobs, the regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, issued a recommendation to every Jewish institution, synagogue and temple that they get their people out of their buildings "until we find out if it's a lone incident."
"We're trying to keep the community as calm as possible," he added.
Kerlikowske said extra officers would be posted at temples, synagogues and mosques in the area even though Seattle police and the FBI believe the shooter acted alone.
He said police would be posted at mosques to prevent "retaliatory" crimes.
Rabbi Daniel Weiner of Temple De Hirsch Sinai had said he was checking with police to see if security there needed to be bolstered.
Several rabbis said Friday night they were continuing with services despite the shootings. "Even if [the shooting] is based on hate, we're not going to let that have any kind of victory over our community gathering," said Rabbi Jonathan Singer of Seattle's Temple Beth Am.
Rabbi Daniel Weiner of Temple De Hirsch Sinai, which has locations in Seattle and Bellevue, said Friday evening that he was checking with police to see if more security would be needed for that evening's service.
Seattle Times staff reporters Mike Carter, Cara Solomon, Jennifer Sullivan, Cheryl Phillips, Brian Alexander, Ken Armstrong, Christine Clarridge, Sara Jean Green, Janet I. Tu, Jonathan Martin, Joe Mullin, Anne Kim and news researchers Miyoko Wolf and Gene Balk contributed to this story.
Seattle Suspect Allegedly Ambushed Girl
By CURT WOODWARD
SEATTLE -- The man suspected in a fatal shooting rampage hid behind a potted plant in a Jewish charity's foyer and forced his way through a security door by holding a gun to a 13-year-old girl's head, the police chief said Saturday.
Once inside, police say, Naveed Afzal Haq opened fire with two semiautomatic pistols. One woman, Pam Waechter, 58, of Seattle was killed at the scene. Five more women were wounded.
Haq, 30, was ordered held on $50 million bail Saturday pending formal charges of murder and attempted murder.
Haq, a Muslim, told authorities he was angered by the war in Iraq and U.S. military cooperation with Israel.
"He pointedly blamed the Jewish people for all of these problems," Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske said at a news conference Saturday.
According to a statement of probable cause, Haq told a 911 dispatcher: "These are Jews and I'm tired of getting pushed around and our people getting pushed around by the situation in the Middle East."
Muhammad Ullah, a close family friend and a senior member of a mosque founded in part by Haq's father, described Haq as a quiet loner with few friends.
In a statement, the Islamic Center of the Tri-Cities offered condolences to the shooting victims and said "we disassociate this act from our Islamic teachings and beliefs."
Seattle police said Haq picked up the two handguns and spare ammunition just days earlier, and appeared to have targeted the federation after a cursory Internet search for Jewish organizations.
He also was stopped shortly before the shootings in Seattle for a minor traffic infraction, and was cited and released, Kerlikowske said. Haq had a valid driver's license and his actions did not raise any suspicion, the chief said.
One of the women wounded in Friday's shooting _ hit in the arm as she shielded her pregnant belly _ helped bring the crisis to an end by crawling into her office, calling 911, and convincing her assailant to talk to dispatchers, Kerlikowske said.
"She's a hero in my eyes," he said at a news conference.
That woman, Dayna Klein, 37, was hospitalized at Harborview Medical Center along with the four others wounded.
Jewish Federation officials identified the other wounded women as Cheryl Stumbo, 43; Layla Bush, 23; and Carol Goldman, 35, all of Seattle; and Christina Rexroad, whose age and hometown could not immediately be confirmed.
The 13-year-old girl taken hostage at the beginning of the melee was not shot, police said.
When Haq got on the phone with 911 operators, he identified himself by name and said, "This is a hostage situation and I wanted these Jews to get out," according to a statement of probable cause.
At one point, he told the dispatcher he wanted police to call the media and that he had a gun pointed at a woman's head. He said he was acting alone and had not been drinking, court documents said.
The three most seriously wounded women, who had been shot in the abdomen, were upgraded from critical to serious condition Saturday, hospital spokeswoman Susan Gregg-Hanson said. The other two were in satisfactory condition Friday. A nursing supervisor refused to say Saturday evening whether they had been released from the hospital.
Prosecutors have until Aug. 2 to formally charge Haq, spokesman Dan Donohoe said. They are not yet seeking capital charges, but that could change, he said.
Authorities searched Haq's parents' home and his apartment _ both in the Tri-Cities area of southeastern Washington _ and removed evidence, including computers and Haq's car, Kerlikowske said.
Police and the FBI are labeling the shootings a hate crime.
Haq entered the King County courtroom on Saturday wearing handcuffs, chains and leg shackles, and a white jail jumpsuit that labeled him an "ultra security inmate."
Before entering, Haq requested through a public defender that he be allowed to not personally attend the hearing, or for him to not be photographed or videotaped. District Judge Barbara L. Linde denied both requests.
Haq briefly glanced at rows of news media in the gallery on his way into the courtroom but otherwise showed no outward emotion.
Waechter, an assistant director at the federation, was described by colleagues as a tireless worker for the Jewish community.
"She was a person everybody loved, everybody enjoyed being with," said Rabbi Jim Mirel of Temple B'nai Torah, where Waechter was a past president.
Waechter is survived by two adult children, Nicole and Mark, Mirel said.
Associated Press writers Donna Gordon Blankinship in Seattle and Shannon Dininny in Pasco contributed to this report.
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Suspect's bail set at $50 million
About a half hour before he opened fire Friday afternoon at the downtown Seattle Jewish Federation offices, Naveed Afzal Haq's white pickup truck was stopped and cited by a Seattle Police traffic officer before being let go, Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske said at a press conference this afternoon.
The violation was a minor one -- driving on Third Avenue during a time when only buses are allowed on the street during the closure of the Metro's bus tunnel. "There was nothing (Haq) did to arouse the officer's suspicions,' Kerlikowske said.
But within only minutes, Haq was hiding behind a large potted plant in the foyer of an organization he found on the Internet with two recently purchased semi-automatic handguns, waiting to abduct a teenager and force his way into the office.
Police say Haq on Friday went on to kill one woman -- identified today by friends of her family as Pam Waechter, of Bellevue, the federation's annual campaign director.
Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for Harborview Medical Center said this morning that the condition of three on the victims has been upgraded from critical to serious condition. The other two continue to be listed in satisfactory condition.
The disclosure about the traffic stop was one of several new details Kerlikowske released, and came shortly after King County District Court Judge Barbara Linde this afternoon set bail for Haq at $50 million.
Once inside the building, Haq, who also carried a large amount of ammunition, started shooting, wounding Dayna Klein, a pregnant woman in the arm.
On Friday, Marla Meislin-Dietrich, a database coordinator for the center, told reporters: "He said, 'I am a Muslim American, angry at Israel,' before opening fire on everyone," "He was randomly shooting at everyone."
Today Kerlikowske heralded Klein as a hero.
He said the pregnant woman had protected her womb for Haq's salvo with her arm. She fell to the floor after she was shot, but managed to crawl back to her office and call police despite Haq's warnings not to call 911.
Kerlikowske said Haq specifically told the woman "not to do that. But she continued to tell the 911 operators what was happening."
After listening to the 911 tapes, Kerlikowske described Haq as initially enraged. Haq "wanted the U.S. to leave Iraq, that his people had been mistreated, that the U.S. was arming Israel, and he didn't care if he died," Kerlikowske recounted.
Kerlikowske also called the 911 dispatchers heroes.
He credited the dispatchers with calming the distraught man until finally he said. "'I'm going to lay down my guns.'" About 12 minutes later, he exited the building with his hands on his head and was arrested by police.
Kerlikowske said the 30-year-old man, who is from the Tri Cities area, legally purchased the guns at two different gun shops, picking them up after the required waiting period on Thursday -- the day before the shooting.
He was booked into the King County jail late Friday night after he was questioned by police.
Today, Haq was lead into the courtroom in a prison t-shirt that said "KCJ ultra-security inmate." The prosecutor's office, under questioning by Linde, said at this time the county does not plan to present a capital case against Haq -- one that could result in the death penalty or life imprisonment. But the prosecution team said circumstances might change.
Photographers and reporters jammed the small courtroom straining to catch a glimpse of the suspect who was separated from the courtroom by a glass partition. Haq had asked the judge through his attorney to bar all cameras and video taping in the courtroom. But Linde denied that motion, saying she had to balance the "fair trial" argument with the fact the court was a public forum.
King County Prosecutor Dan Donahoe said his office was reviewing the case and planned to file formal charges on Wednesday.
"We wanted the high bail to ensure he remains in custody," Donohoe said after Saturday's court appearance.
Kerlikowske said police served warrants on two residences in the Tri-Cities, including Haq's apartment and his parents' home. There they seized at least three computers.
That evidence had just arrived in Seattle this afternoon Kerlikowske said. But he indicated police believed the Haq had used the Internet to target the foundation after searching for any Jewish-related buildings.
In a phone interview today, Robert Jacobs, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League of Seattle, said. "I'm exhausted. I've had a sleepless night with the families who were shot, including Pam Waechter. You read about things like this in the paper and said it's a good thing this doesn't happen in Seattle. This shows this happens anywhere and we cannot weaken our vigilance."
Yousef Shehadeb, 46, a member of the Islamic Center of the Tri-Cities, said Haq's family is well-known in southeastern Washington's small Muslim community.
"I can't even describe how horrible everyone in the community feels. Shock, disbelief," Shehadeb said.
Shehadeb recalled Haq as quiet and something of a loner. Shehadeb said he and Haq's father, Mian Haq, both work at the Hanford nuclear reservation, as do many members of the area's Muslim community.
Mian Haq was listed in the facility's directory, but it was not clear what type of work he did. All workers at Hanford must have federal security clearance, which includes a background check. No one answered the door to an Associated Press reporter on Saturday at the Haq residence north of Pasco.
The shootings come just weeks after Jewish leaders told Congress that there was a "critical threat" to their institutions nationwide because of escalating tensions in the Middle East. The FBI has labeled the shootings a "hate crime" based on what the gunman told police in a 911 call.
The Arab American Community Coalition reacted "with shock and sorrow" to the shootings. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families," said the coalition's Rita Zawaideh in a statement faxed to the media this morning. "We urge our law enforcement agencies to take all necessary actions to prevent such crims from happening against Jews, Arabs and Muslims in the future."
The group cancelled a march that had been scheduled today to call for a ceasefire in the Middle East "in light of yesterday's violent actions, and out of concern for the safety of members of the Arab-American community and the general public."
"Violence against anyone because of ethincity or religion does not advance the cause of peace, justice and liberation in Lebanon, Palestine or Israel." And speaking of Seattle and its diverse religious and ethic community, the statement continued: "This crime is not a reflection of what our community is about."
Pregnant lady' is a hero – twice
Saturday, July 29, 2006
By ROBERT L. JAMIESON JR.
In news accounts she's been called "the pregnant lady."
People close to her say she would be a bit miffed by such a clipped, if apropos, moniker.
Let's call Dayna Klein something else: Seattle hero.
Klein, who survived being shot by a gunman who forced his way into the downtown offices of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle on Friday, is actually a hero twice over.
When the gunman, identified as Naveed Afzal Haq, fired a semi-automatic her way, Klein moved her arm toward her womb in an act of maternal defense.The bullet struck her arm, authorities say, likely preventing possible harm from coming to her unborn child.
That was the first heroic act.
Her second came when Klein defied Haq. As Haq scanned the office space he warned terrified people not to call 911. But "that's what she did," Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske said, referring to Klein.
Klein, 37, crawled back to an office in the building.
She got on a phone. She dialed emergency dispatchers.
Haq caught up with her -- and saw her on the phone.
Klein didn't panic.
With amazing presence of mind she handed Haq the phone so that he could speak with two 911 dispatchers. The dispatchers took the handoff smoothly and handled a tense situation with aplomb.
"I listened to the tape," Kerlikowske said Saturday afternoon. "I was absolutely stunned by their level of calmness and coolness."
The actions of the dispatchers are being credited with influencing Haq, who had expressed anger about Israel's involvement in the Middle East and about American military support of the country.
The volley of bullets he loosed inside the Jewish Federation killed one person -- Pam Waechter -- and injured five others, including Klein.
His terrible act could have exacted a worse toll.
Eighteen people were inside the building when Haq burst in.
The names of the emergency dispatchers should be made public when the timing is right.
Their soothing professionalism eased Haq's rage.
Haq told the dispatchers he would surrender. He put down his weapon and walked out of the building.
The dispatchers are heroes, too, as Kerlikowske acknowledged.
But they would not have gotten the chance to do their jobs had it not been for the bravery of Klein, who heads up major gifts and development for the federation.
She saved lives.
That's one miracle to emerge from this mayhem.
Another is around the corner, when Klein brings a new life into the world.
Robert Jamieson Jr. can be reached at 206-448-8125 or [email protected]