Firearm violence in King County, and especially in South King County, continues to soar in 2021 with increases in shots fired incidents as well as fatal and nonfatal shootings.
The number of shots fired incidents (253) in the first three months jumped 25% from the four-year average (2017-2020) for the first quarter, according to the King County Firearm Violence Report released April 27 by the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.
The number of shooting victims (69) jumped 27% from the first quarter average. The number of fatal shootings (16) was up 36% and the number of nonfatal shootings (53) up 24% from the four-year average.
“We are continuing the very disturbing trend of 2020 in the first three months of 2021,” King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg said during a virtual interview about the statistics compiled from more than 20 law enforcement agencies. “I had a gut feeling things were worse. This helps me confirm my gut.”
Another statistic indicating an increase in violence is county prosecutors filed 90 murder charges in 2020 after averaging about 56 murder charges per year in the previous 10 years.
“We are on pace to do that again this year,” Satterberg said of the high number of murder cases. “Bottom line, 2020 was an unexpectedly violent year and 2021 continues that trend.”
The majority of the shots fired data comes from eight agencies: Seattle, Auburn, Des Moines, Federal Way, Kent, Renton, Tukwila and the King County Sheriff’s Office (including unincorporated King County and 16 contract cities). These eight agencies account for roughly 79% of the county’s population.
In the first quarter of 2021, 68% of the shots fired and 71% of the shooting victims (fatal and nonfatal) were from agencies outside of Seattle, according to the report. That’s a jump from the four-year average in which 60% of all shots fired and 58% of shooting victims were from agencies outside of Seattle.
“Kent has had a tremendous amount of homicides (eight) already in 2021,” Satterberg said. “Some of it seems so trivial, (such as) fights over a parking spot in an apartment complex.”
Satterberg said such a case is evidence of anxiety and anger in society. He said some of the shootings are by people with felony records who legally aren’t allowed to carry a gun.
“People who carry guns who shouldn’t be carrying guns often feel like their only option is to use them when they have been challenged in some way that insults their pride,” Satterberg said.
People carrying guns sometimes end up using them against each other.
“People think if they have a gun they can defuse a situation, but that doesn’t work if the other person also has a gun,” Satterberg said.
The report also shows that gun violence most often strikes males, young people and people of color.
Of the 69 shooting victims in the first quarter of 2021, 80% were male; 42% between the ages of 18 to 24; and 78% were people of color.
“Gun violence follows concentrated poverty and involves young people,” Satterberg said. “Young men of color are much more likely to be victims and perpetrators of gun violence.”
Satterberg said community nonprofits have shown violence interruption can work if people get into programs that steer them away from guns and violence.
In April, the King County Council approved spending $2 million to create a new gun violence prevention grant program to reduce violence through community-based groups.
“We do know people under the age of 24 don’t think about long-term consequences and do risky things,” Satterberg said.
Too many young people turn to violence to solve problems.
“Violence is an act of desperation. …they think the only way to deal with a current situation is to kill another human being,” Satterberg said.