Saturday, July 29, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Hatred hits home: 6 shot at Jewish office

A violent year so far

Friday's shooting at the Jewish Federation building in Seattle was the latest in a spate of high-profile slayings this year in the region.

Feb. 7: Three people, Darren S. Christian, 28; Lindy A. Cochran, 21; and Daniel J. Varo, 22, were fatally shot in a Tacoma home in what police described as execution-style slayings. Charged with aggravated first-degree murder and first-degree robbery in connection with the slayings were Ulysses "Moonie" Handy III, 24; his cousin, Darryl David Pierce, 24; and Sirree Tariq Muhammad, 18. Pierce's girlfriend, Ronee L. Gutierrez, 20, was charged with robbery and three counts of felony first-degree murder.

March 25: Kyle Huff, 28, opened fire at an early morning after-rave party on Capitol Hill and killed six people and wounded two others before shooting himself. Killed in the shooting rampage were Jason Travers, 32; Jeremy Martin, 26; Justin Schwartz, 22; Christopher Williamson, 21; Suzanne Thorne, 15; and Melissa Moore, 14.

July 11: Seattle residents Mary Cooper, 56, and her daughter Susanna Stodden, 27, were fatally shot while hiking in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. The Snohomish County Sheriff's Office has identified people who may have information related to the slayings, but have not made an arrest.

July 17: Firefighters doused a Kirkland house fire and discovered the bodies of 28-year-old Olga Milkin, her sister, Lyubov Botvina, 24, and Milkin's two sons, 5-year-old Justin and 3-year-old Andrew. Neighbor Conner Michael Schierman, 24, has been charged with stabbing the four people to death before setting the fire.

July 20: Three men were killed and three others wounded when a car containing five men and teens was fired upon by two men in the driveway of a Skyway home. Killed in the car were Sovintha Nhem, 23, and Sophea Sun, 20. William Belk, 28, one of two men who allegedly confronted the group in the car, was killed by "friendly fire" from his friend, Dimitri Sidorchuk, police said. Sidorchuk, 23, who lives at the house, has been charged with two counts of second-degree murder, one count of first-degree manslaughter and several counts of first-degree assault.

A Muslim man angry with Israel barged into the offices of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle Friday afternoon and opened fire with a handgun, killing one woman and wounding five others before surrendering to police.

Three of the women were in critical condition late Friday.

A law-enforcement source identified the arrested suspect as Naveed Afzal Haq, 30, who until recently had lived in Everett, and said Haq apparently has a history of mental illness. Court records show Haq has a charge of lewd conduct pending against him in Benton County.

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 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.

Witnesses said the man announced he was an Muslim American as he forced his way into the federation offices just after 4 p.m. and fired randomly at employees with a semiautomatic 9-mm handgun. Seattle Police Assistant Chief Nick Metz said there were at least 18 people in the offices when the shooting started.

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 heard the account from the wounded co-worker.

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. The center is located on Third Avenue between Lenora and Virginia streets in Belltown.

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.

A Harborview Medical Center spokesman said all the victims were women, ranging in age from their early 20s to 40s. Three were in critical condition and underwent surgery Friday evening. One woman, age 43, was shot in the abdomen, according to Seattle Fire Department medics. Another was 17 weeks pregnant.

One of the victims was identified by family members as 23-year-old Layla Bush. "We just heard she's alive a minute or two ago," said her mother, Kathryn Bush, from her home in Panama City, Fla. The other wounded victims have been identified as Carol Goldman, Dayna Klein, Christina Rexroad and Cheryl Stumbo.

Most of the shooting victims were able to flee the building. 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 told staff members, "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.

Shortly after that, one staff member who was shot twice escaped through the back door as well, Wasser-Simpson said.

Wasser-Simpson was not in the building because she was working from home. She also 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 were shaken by the news that their son was in custody for the shootings, said Haq's Kennewick defense attorney, Larry Stephenson.

"I talked to his father, and his mother is crying, and they don't know what is going on," Stephenson said. "They are very, very shook up. They haven't been able to reach their son."

Haq had been charged with misdemeanor lewd conduct in Benton County for allegedly exposing himself in a public place in Kennewick, Stephenson said. He declined to elaborate. The charge is punishable by up to a year in jail.

The case had been scheduled to go to trial in Benton County District Court on Thursday, but was postponed.

Stephenson said he does not believe Haq is married or has children. Stephenson said he did not believe Haq had a job.

Haq went to college, Stephenson said, but he declined to say where.

Asked if Haq had any mental-health issues, Stephenson said he couldn't comment. "I'm really not OK to discuss that," he said.

Haq's father, Mian A. Haq, was a founding member of the Islamic Centre of Tri-Cities in Richland, said center member Youseff Shehadeh. He described the younger Haq as a loner who attended holidays at the center but was barely involved in recent years.

Naveed Haq's parents moved into a new suburb in Pasco less than three years ago after living in nearby Richland for more than a decade, said Maureen Hales, a neighbor.

Mian Haq was involved in an Islamic center in Richland, but he did not discuss his religion with his neighbors, said Hales.

She said she had not seen Naveed Haq, but found his parents and his younger brother, Hasan, to be "quite enjoyable." The two families exchanged food, and Maureen Hales said she watches the Haqs' house when they're away.

Naveed Haq lived in an apartment building at 2924 Nassau St. in Everett until about two weeks ago, when he abruptly left, said tenant Chris Richey. The landlady told Richey that Haq was heading to Pakistan. Richie often talked with Haq about guns and politics, though little stuck out. Richey said Haq didn't like President Bush.

Haq told Richey he owned a .45-caliber handgun, which he kept locked up in safety deposit box.

The law-enforcement source said Haq had a license to carry a concealed weapon.

"There was something strange about him," Richey said. "There was something about him I didn't like."

A friend, Andres Atencio, 29, a real-estate agent in Maple Valley, said he lost touch with Haq after high school. He described Haq as studious and friendly.

"He was pretty much just a normal guy. He was a little more toward the academic side than the average high-school person," Atencio said. "He was the kind of guy when you talked to him he was always laughing ... not outgoing but not reclusive either."

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.

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. It was a sponsor of the Solidarity with Israel rally on Mercer Island last Sunday.

The federation's mission is to ensure Jewish survival and enhance the quality of Jewish life locally, in Israel and worldwide.

Friday is 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.

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 early Friday evening that he was checking with police to see if more security would be needed for that evening's service.

Rabbi Jim Mirel of Temple B'nai Torah in Bellevue said he was "extremely shocked, extremely saddened" by the situation, and that his congregation was worried about a member of their temple who works at the federation.

Both Jewish and Muslim advocacy groups condemned the shootings Friday.

The Washington, D.C.-based Council on American-Islamic Relations, issued a statement calling the shootings a "senseless attack on a religious institution."

"The American Muslim and Jewish communities must do whatever is within their power to prevent the current conflict in the Middle East from being transplanted to this country," the council said.

The New York-based United Jewish Communities, which represents 150 national Jewish federations nationwide, called the shootings "shocking and dismaying, and our hearts are full of sympathy, as well as prayers for the full recovery of those injured."

Seattle Times staff reporters Mike Carter, Jennifer Sullivan, Cheryl Phillips, Brian Alexander, Ken Armstrong, Christine Clarridge, Sara Jean Green, Janet Tu, Jonathan Martin, Joe Mullin and Anne Kim contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company


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