Pakistani-American Gunman Kills 1, Wounds 5 in Seattle Jewish Federation Shooting
oday, is one of those days when reality comes far too close for comfort. Today, the wars of the Mideast blasted their way into the city I live in in the most visceral way possible. This is from a King5-TV online report:
One person has been killed and at least five others have been injured in a shooting at the Jewish Federation at 2031 Third Ave. in downtown Seattle. One suspect has been taken into custody.
Police have taken one person into custody but there may be more suspects in or around the building.
Sources told KING 5 the suspect is a Pakistani man with a criminal background. He is from the Tri-Cities but his citizenship is unknown.
According to the Seattle Times, a man got through security at the Jewish Federation and told staff members, “I’m a Muslim American; I’m angry at Israel,” then began shooting, according to Amy Wasser-Simpson, the vice president for planning and community services for the Jewish Federation…
One witness said the shooter shot a woman as she was walking into the building. Another witness said she saw a woman sitting down, bleeding, outside the building.
Several witnesses said they saw a man walk up to the entrance of the building and shoot a woman in the leg. The man then walked into the building and made it up to the roof.
Witnesses said they heard one shot while the man was on the roof. The man then went back inside and witnesses said they heard several more shots.
The suspect walked into the offices of the Jewish Federation building in downtown Seattle nearly two hours ago (4 PM PDT) and pulled out a weapon of some kind and started firing at the employees. Though the building has a visitor security system, the suspect got in by telling the receptionist he was upset about what was happening in the Mideast and wanted to talk to someone about it. Apparently, the Federation does not use metal detectors though I presume most Federations in the world will now get them if they don’t already have them.
While we know very little about the attacker and the motives for the attack other than they must be rooted in great Arab anger toward Israel and the Jewish community for the violence in Lebanon, what seems to link this attack to other terror attacks like the London bombings is a home-grown Arab suspect with possibly no direct or formal ties to Al Qaeda, but who nonetheless is inspired by it (or in this case possibly by Hezbollah) to commit such acts of violence.
Not since Argentine terror attacks in the 1990s, do I remember the offices of a Jewish communal group being attacked by an Arab terrorist. In the earlier incident, it is thought that Iran played some role in organizing the attack though it disputes that claim. Given that the suspect in this crime is Pakistani, it seems unlikely that such a link will be found. Though of course there may be other links to other organizations or countries.
I am going to say something that my fellow Seattle Jews may not agree with and my president certainly will disagree with but…this killing proves the absolute urgency of an immediate ceasefire in Lebanon. How many more Jewish communal organizations will be targeted after the unbalanced or zealots decide to emulate this nutjob? And in case we needed incontrovertible proof of the immense reservoir of hatred the Lebanon war is building among the world’s Muslims and Arabs, Seattle is the perfect emblem of that hatred and what the future holds in store.
More as the situation unfolds…
UPDATE from Seattle Times 6:30 PM PDT:
An employee in the building said she was at her desk when she heard what she at first thought were balloons popping.
“It went ‘Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop!’ and then we heard a woman scream,” said the employee, who asked that her name not be used.
“One of the receptionists told me that he shot her and then demanded that she call 911,” the employee said. “He told the police that it was a hostage situation and he wanted us to get our weapons out of Israel.”
“I saw one friend –– she had been shot twice in the stomach and was bleeding,” the witness said.
Most of the employees were able to leave through a back door.
…David Gomez, an assistant special agent-in-charge for the FBI, said there is nothing to indicate the gunman is part of a larger organization.
“We believe he is a lone individual with antagonism toward this organization,” he said.
There are two problems with Gomez’ statement above. First, it has become crystal clear that in this day and age of hyperhate it is no longer necessary for a terrorist to receive weapons training and indoctrination in an Al Qaeda training camp in Pakistan or Afghanistan. As the London underground bombings made clear, terrorists can be home-grown and their grudges are no longer nurtured by professional terrorists. There is so much hate out there that lone wolves are willing to take things into their own hands. And all they need is a gun and the ability to shoot straight. So the fact that he is a “lone individual” with no apparent organizational affiliations shouldn’t comfort us very much.
What has brought us to this pass? Undoubtedly the ongoing U.S. war in Iraq plays a role. And the unresolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict plays an even larger role for people like our gunman. For him, the war in Lebanon was a proximate cause. But we must find a way to resolve the Israeli-Arab conflict. This would be the release valve for pressure building within the Arab world as exemplified by this madman today. Fix this problem and the madmen will retreat from the light into the shadows where they belong.
The other problem with Gomez’s comment is that clearly the gunman was expressing “antagonism” toward far more than “this organization.” From the statements he made during the crime, he was angry at Israel for its prosecution of the war in Lebanon. He happened to lash out at the Jewish federation as the nearest target he could find. So his beef is with the State of Israel and the entire Jewish people. I think the FBI could be a little more careful in their comments.
U.S. Attorney John McKay said his office would consider prosecuting the shooting as a federal hate crime if , indeed, the suspect “was making hate-filled speech” during the shooting spree.
“That likely won’t happen until the local investigation is completed,” McKay said this afternoon.
Members of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force had been called to the scene.
Sources told KING 5 the suspect is a 31-year-old Pakistani man with a criminal background. He is from Pasco and is a U.S. citizen, but it was not immediately known how long he has lived in the United States. Also unknown is what sort of criminal record he has. Officials are on the way to the Pasco to interview his family.
According to the Seattle Times, a man got through security at the Jewish Federation and told staff members, “I’m a Muslim American; I’m angry at Israel,” then began shooting, according to Amy Wasser-Simpson, the vice president for planning and community services for the Jewish Federation.
FBI spokesman David Gomez said officials believe the suspect acted alone and is not affiliated with a foreign organization.
A Harborview Medical Center spokesperson said five women were brought in, and three of them are in critical condition. They have not yet been identified. Their ages are 23, 27, 29, 19 and 43. The 43-year-old woman was reportedly shot in the abdomen. Two victims were in satisfactory condition: a woman, who’s 17 weeks pregnant who was shot in the arm and another victim with a knee injury.
A joint terrorism task force joined SWAT teams and a bomb disposal unit at the scene. The suspect’s vehicle, a pickup truck, was in a nearby garage in the Bed, Bath and Beyond building, at 1930 Third Ave. Police cordoned off part of the garage before they determined there were no explosives inside the vehicle.
The gunman forced his way through the security door at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle at 4 p.m. after an employee had punched in her security code, Marla Meislin-Dietrich, a database coordinator for the center, told The Associated Press.
“He said ‘I am a Muslim American, angry at Israel,’ before opening fire on everyone,” Meislin-Dietrich said. “He was randomly shooting at everyone.”
One staff member who was shot twice escaped through the back door, said Meislin-Dietrich, who was working away from the office and relaying information provided by coworkers who were at the building.
Seattle Fire Department spokeswoman Helen Fitzpatrick said one person died at the scene of the shooting. Deanna Nollette, a police spokeswoman, said the deceased was a woman who was shot.
…A vehicle police believe belongs to the gunman — a white Mazda pickup with Washington license plates — was checked for explosives and towed away.
There are few silver linings regarding this horrible crime. But there is a single one. I have worked in Jewish federations in New York and California. From the point of view of a terrorist, the absolute worst time to attack a Jewish communal office is on Friday afternoon in summer. Staff take their summer vacations and observant staff leave early to prepare for Shabbat. So the toll could’ve been worse. Let’s be thankful it wasn’t while also comforting the victims who were unlucky enough to have been there.
UPDATE: I NEVER in my life thought I was quote Pajamas Media for anything but…they are reporting that KIRO 710 (radio) says the suspect’s name is Naveed Afzal Haq and that he’s been charged with one count of homicide, five counts attempted homicide.
PJM has already accused me of blaming Israel for the Seattle attack:
Richard Silverstein…thinks it really is Israel’s fault after all
It appears there is more than one nutjob lurking out there in the world. I don’t blame Israel for the attack. I blame a hate-filled nutjob. But a ceasefire would go a long way towards calming the hatred. Boy, with that PJM link I’m going to be mopping the floors with the hate-spew for the next few days. To quote my president, “bring it on.”
When the Federation sets up a fund to aid the victims and their families, I will post a link.
9 thoughts on “Pakistani-American Gunman Kills 1, Wounds 5 in Seattle Jewish Federation Shooting – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
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While we know very little about the attacker and the motives for the attack other than they must be rooted in great Arab anger toward Israel and the Jewish community for the violence in Lebanon,
He said that he is angry at Israel, but he didn’t say what for. It could be Lebanon, it could be something else. To rally for a ceasefire based upon the actions of a lunatic is Chamberlainesque. So my dear Neville, I would suggest that we wait and see what happens.
Unfortunately this jerk is now in the category of Buford Furrow and the Egyptian who shot up the El Al counter at LAX.
Hmmm. Angry at Israel? Couldn’t have anything to do with Lebanon or the Gaza invasion, now, could it? Probably just had a bad flight once on El Al and needed to vent.
The shooter may or may not be a lunatic. But even if he is, then there are tons more out there waiting to take their turn next. The best way to steal their thunder is to lance the boil & negotiate an end to both the Lebanon and Palestinian conflicts.
When we were on our honeymoon in Paris, my wife and I were a bit taken aback by the security at the Jewish Art Museum. Sadly this will have to become the norm.
As far as the attacks from the right on your comments, I have to agree – I would formulate it as “This is yet another reason for the urgency for a cease-fire”…
Especially considering the futility of policy. Whether or not the shooter is a lunatic of one sort – I can’t stop beliving that the one thing the US, Britain, and Israel have in common, are lunatics of a different sort setting military policy.
The attack on Lebanon will not achieve ANY of Israel’s goals, and will in fact do the opposite. Like in Iraq, only deploying a massive number of troops – with enormous consequences in loss of life – would Israel be capable of defeating Hezbollah. In Iraq it’s way too late. In Israel, even if they were willing to commit those forces, there would be many unintended consequences.
So by continuing the bombinb campaign, all that will be accomplished is more loss of civilian life, more loss of infrastructure. More hatred of Israel, more hatred of the US. The winners will be Hezbollah who will be viewed as defeating the IDF. Iran and Syria will also be winners…
And the consequences in Seattle are unspeakable… So many lives now will never be the same.
The only answer is peace. The only long term solution is peace. Violence only breeds more violence. The neo-conservative idea that violence is the answer is complete and utter lunacy.
I, too have read/heard about the shooting that took place at Seattle’s Jewish Community, and have to say that I sincerely hope that the person responsible gets a life imprisonment sentence, because that’s exactly what he deserves.
However, as horrific as the present situation in the Mideast is, and as excessive as Israel’s incursions into Lebanon, not to mention their horrific policies in the Occupied Territories are, and as much as I agree that negociations for a permanent peace pact between Israel and the Arab World, including the Palestinians are, along with the implementation of the necessary 2-state solution, I also believe that this person responsible for the shootings at the Seattle Jewish Community Center is somebody who has always harbored a hatred for Jews, and that his anger towards Israel is a rationale for going out and doing something that he would’ve gone out and done sooner or later anyway.
This kind of lone wolf behaviour pattern, where an independently operating person like the one above takes matters into his own hands, is by no means new. Timothy McVeigh, who, with no threats or anythings, went out, planned and carried out the bombing of the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City is one example of that. Other examples, which go furthur back are James Earl Ray, the man convicted and imprisoned for life after assasinating Martin Luther King, Jr., as well as Sirhan Sirhan, the mentally ill Palestinian man who shot and killed Robert F. Kennedy, supposedly for his support of Israel during the 6-Day War. Both of these assisinations occurred during the year 1968, a year, that, as Jules Witt, the author of the book “1968: The Year the Dream Died”, pointed out, that the dream really did die.
That the shooter hates Israel and possibly Jews seems almost undeniable. But that he would’ve commited the crime w/o a spur to do so is by no means a given. Those driven to political or religious murder may be motivated by a specific event or act; or they may be driven by something more internal to themselves alone.
I’d argue that the war in Lebanon & the destruction wrought there by Israel could be a powerful motivating factor. That in no way excuses his crime–far from it–but it places it into context.
While it’s possible that the latest crisis in the Mideast is a motivating factor, I firmly believe that there was undoubtedly more to it than that—that there were other things at play. The person responsible for this hateful crime was undoubtedly an extremely hate-filled individual who was looking for an excuse to go out and commit a crime like this, and–having said that, if it weren’t his anger over Israel’s invasion of Lebanon that motivated him, it would’ve undoubtedly been something else, imo.
Regarding the comment
“What has brought us to this pass? Undoubtedly the ongoing U.S. war in Iraq plays a role. And the unresolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict plays an even larger role for people like our gunman.”
In March 1994, a busload of Lubavitch yeshiva students while driving on the Brooklyn Bridge were fired upon by a Lebanese immigrant Rashid Baz resulting in the murder of Ari Halberstam, A”H.
At the time, Rabin and company were involved deeply in negotiations with the Palestinian Authority for the previous six months following the initial agreement of the Oslo accords and it seemed there was progress.
If I remember correctly, Baz’s defense attorney mentioned something about his client experiencing a flashback of Israel’s invasion of his village in Lebanon in 1982. Of course, how black suited and hatted yeshiva students could be mistaken for IDF soldiers and why Baz had several shotguns in his car was too suspicious for the Grand Jury panel to deliver anythng but a guilty plea and fortunately Baz is serving a 150-year sentence.
While defense lawyers have no shortage of cynical ideas in their arsenal which is guaranteed to infuriate at least someone, I had a sense of foreboding over Baz’ particular defense.
This should make one very hesitant and suspicious towards accepting the ideas about political cause-and-effect pretexts which inevitably gives a shade of respectability to their defense.
I smell a double-standard. If a neo-Nazi shoots a Jewish person would not any defense with a political tinge be handed the dismissal that it rightly deserves? Would he be given any creedence that somehow the Jewish collective was in some way responsible for one of their own getting murdered?
However, now if any member of the Islamic Umma has a beef with Jews all he has to do is cite some injustice committed by the State of Israel whether past (as in Baz’ case) and he can rest assure that there will be those in the victim’s country or community ready and willing to politicize the murder as an extension of MidEast or international conflicts and it can even play a role in determining an outcome.
IMO, this is not only a double standard, it sends a dangerous signal to would be terrorists that their act of murder will be given a more respectable analysis than for example a white power killer.
In the 70s the KKK once bombed a schoolbus full of children that was part of a school busing campaign. Imagine if at the time a local legislator who was known to oppose busing said “The KKK was of course wrong and the perpetrator should be given the maximum penalty. But also, in the interest of preventing similar reoccurances, we should stop the busing campaign”.
Let me make clear that I do not countenance such violence by saying it has a political context that somehow excuses it. No, far from it. Anyone who kills while motivated by hate should be fully prosecuted (though this individual seems genuinely mentally ill which complicates that). But I am saying that Israeli actions can exacerbate the hate and that I’d rather see less such motivation or fuel provided to the lunatics if possible.
A hate crime or a terrorist act is a hate crime or a terrorist act, regardless of who committs it, and, it’s agreed that that a permanent, just peace settlements of the present ongoing crises in the Middle East is necessary. While it’s possible that the present turmoil in that part of the world could be a motivating factor, it also doesn’t change the fact that, historically, there’ve been people who’ve committed those kinds of acts WITHOUT the impetus of incidents like those. Just my two cents.