Seattle Police entered a police-free zone occupied by protesters to investigate a shooting that killed a 19-year-old man and injured another early Saturday morning, June 20, authorities confirmed.
Officers initially had trouble getting to the scene because they "were met by a violent crowd that prevented officers safe access to the victims," according to a statement by the Seattle Police Department. The shooting took place in "Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone" - or CHAZ - a zone near downtown Seattle set aside for protesters against police brutality.
The police officers' arrival into the zone, filmed by people occupying it, didn't appear to show violence. Police later learned the victims were taken to Harborview Medical Center, a nearby trauma unit.
At about 3 a.m., two men with gunshot wounds were driven to the University of Washington affiliated hospital in private vehicles, hospital spokeswoman Susan Gregg confirmed to The Washington Post. The 19-year-old died shortly after arrival while the other man is in critical condition in the intensive care unit, Gregg said.
The city said 9-1-1 calls placed about a half-hour apart indicated the men were shot a block away from each other.
Police said they are searching for the shooter or shooters and had no description to share as of Saturday morning. There is no known motive. Investigators gathered shell casings from the scene Saturday.
Protesters cordoned the area June 8 after Seattle Police vacated the East Precinct building in the city's Capitol Hill following a week of clashes with demonstrators, who threw objects at officers, protesting the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. In response, police used tear gas and other crowd control measures.
The zone, which is leaderless, has evolved to be now known as the Capitol Hill Organized Protest, or CHOP. Organizers have demanded city officials abolish the police department, investigate allegations of police brutality and pay reparations to victims of violence by police.
The occupants of the zone have remained mostly peaceful in the past two weeks.
But the zone has become a boogeyman for conservatives, including President Donald Trump, who believes it is dangerous and has threatened to "take it back" from the protesters.
Law enforcement has generally steered clear of the area.
But on Saturday, responding to the shooting, a horde of armed police officers entered the zone.
Omari Salisbury, a citizen journalist for Converge Media, live-streamed on Facebook as the officers approached and announced they were coming to extract a shooting victim. The crowd shouted back: "He's already gone."
Officers seemed to search the area as protesters chanted "hands up, don't shoot" and followed the roving patrol.
Police eventually returned to their patrol cars and left.
Republicans seized on the shooting, calling for Mayor Jenny Durkan, a Democrat, to disband the zone.
"Last night, radical left-wing [policies] and [Durkan] complete lack of leadership resulted in a young teenager dead and another injured," Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., tweeted. "First responders attempted to render aid after a deadly shooting in the #CHAZ, but were met by a violent mob and forced to retreat."
Durkan didn't immediately respond to The Post's request for comment.
President Trump and other conservatives, without proof, have said the zone is dangerous and lawless.
"Take back your city NOW," Trump tweeted at Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, and Durkan n the past week. "If you don't do it, I will. This is not a game. These ugly Anarchists must be stooped IMMEDIATELY. MOVE FAST!" He also suggested "domestic terrorists" organized the occupation.
Durkan pushed back against Trump's attacks, saying that they were baseless as the autonomous zone had been mostly peaceful. In a news conference last week, Durkan mentioned occupants holding potlucks, displaying Black Lives Matter art and screening movies.
"Lawfully gathering and expressing First Amendment rights, demanding we do better as a society, and providing true equity for communities of color is not terrorism," she said. "It is patriotism."
This article was written by Meryl Kornfield, a reporter for The Washington Post.