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Justin Schwartz remembered: "He was just a warm, energetic, fun-loving person"
Seattle Times staff reporters
When Justin Schwartz was 3 years old he wowed his extended Seattle family with his dancing at his uncle Steve's wedding.
Nearly 20 years later, his final night was spent dancing with friends at a Capitol Hill rave.
"He was happy, and he went down doing what was making him happy," said his uncle, Steve Schwartz.
Justin, known since high school as Sushi, had wandered in life a little in recent years. But when he found the city's techno music scene he quickly adopted it as his community — taking to it with the determination his family has always marveled at.
Capitol Hill tragedy
"There was no quit in Justin," Steve Schwartz said. "The tenacity could well be interpreted as stubbornness. He was doing what he wanted and you know, hat's off to him because it seems he was succeeding in it."
He certainly had left his mark since his friend Kevin Hanson took him to his first rave in November.
"He had the best time of his life. I'm sure that's what pulled him in," said Hanson, 22. "Being in the rave scene, he was just accepted as who he was."
The family is holding a private service. He is survived, his mother said, by a large, multi-generational, extended family in Seattle.
Schwartz, 22, was an Alaska Native who was adopted when he was 1 by Debra Schwartz. She said that her son had a twin and they were separated at birth and adopted by different families.
Justin was one of six people killed by a gunman at a Capitol Hill house early Saturday morning – a gunman believed to be a twin himself, Kyle Huff.
Hanson was supposed to meet Schwartz there, but was delayed when he got lost. As Hanson neared the house, he heard the blare of sirens.
"I'm just thankful I'm still alive," Hanson said.
In high school, Schwartz's mother said, everyone thought Justin was of Japanese descent, so he took to calling himself Sushi.
She said he had always loved music and dancing. Justin had a knack for picking up music and foreign languages. He was a practical joker, rode horses and was the family's "free spirit," his uncle said.
"He was just a warm, energetic, fun-loving person," Steve Schwartz said.
For high school, Justin attended Missouri Military Academy. He served a stint in the Navy and was stationed in Japan. Recently, he was studying Japanese and looking for a way to return to Japan, his mother said.
She said Justin told her about the raves. But it wasn't until the news broke of Saturday's shooting that she learned how well-known "Sushi" was among Seattle's young techno music scene.
In the rave world, Schwartz was a spirited jokester who made friends easily, said Hanson.
"His main goal in life was to be as well known in Seattle as possible," Hanson said.
On MySpace.com, Schwartz had a personal Web site that declared "I GOT IN THE RAVE SCENE AND I LOVE IT!!!!!!!!!!"
Jason Robertson, manager of a University District club popular with the crowd, said Schwartz had "discovered the open arms of this community." He said Schwartz had talked to him recently about his newfound friends.
"He just wanted to say, 'Thank you,' just to be that accepted.'."
The extent of Justin's social network surprised his mother.
"Growing up is also about separation, and this is the venue he chose to gravitate toward," she said. But he never lost touch with his family, including grandparents and cousins and aunts and uncles.
His mother said Schwartz has been living at home. Hanson said Schwartz had also stayed some nights at a shelter in the University District or on friends' couches.
Hanson and Schwartz met and became friends in 2004 while they were both at Job Corps, a federal job training program, Hanson said. Schwartz, who once worked as a mail clerk for a Seattle law firm, had recently been doing odd jobs.
Schwartz's MySpace journal hosts a growing collection of remembrances for the young man. A number of them recalled him as a joyful and fun person, and a presence in the rave scene.
Hanson recalled that each time they attended a rave, including the event that preceded the shooting, the two would tell each other, "I hope this never ends."
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company