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'Public health crisis': Gun violence, homicides on rise in King County

King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg
Elaine Thompson
The Associated Press file
King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg

The year 2020 was deadly in more ways than one. In addition to coronavirus deaths, the murder rate spiked. And there’s no indication things are getting better. King County, for example, is on pace to set another deadly record for gun violence in 2021. And the victims are overwhelmingly young people of color.


King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said just since January, 16 people have been shot and killed resulting in murder charges being filed. In addition to the homicides, he said, “53 people have been shot and injured.”


That’s a 36 percent increase over pre-pandemic times.


Guns, he said, are a huge problem, the easy availability of them, the fact that more young people are carrying.


“Some people have convinced themselves that the only way to get ahead is to carry a gun wherever you go, and there’s unfortunately a lot of people who believe that,” he said.


Satterberg said it means a petty disagreement can turn deadly.


“We had an incident a couple of weeks ago at a single apartment complex in Kent where two unrelated shootings happened over a dispute over a parking space,” he said. A man and a woman, both in their 30s, were killed in those cases.


Adding to the tragedy of gun violence, he said, is who is being harmed.


“We know that it is concentrated on young people. Forty-two percent of people shot were 24 or under, 70 percent were people of color and 80 percent were young men,” Satterberg said.


He said there needs to be a strategic approach to preventing gun violence through things like mentorship and violence reduction programs. It needs to be treated as the public health crisis it is, he said.


From a public safety perspective, he said, looking at gun violence stats helps determine where policing should be increased.


Satterberg said he is concerned that gun violence will continue to escalate this summer. Normally, there is more violence when the weather warms up.


“Right now, we’re headed in the wrong direction,” he said.

Paula reports on groundbreaking legal decisions in Washington State and on trends in crime and law enforcement. She’s been at KNKX since 1989 and has covered the Law and Justice beat for the past 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.