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Originally published Sunday, October 8, 2006 at 12:00 AM

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Assault victim fatally shoots assailant outside Westlake Center

A bizarre case of what appeared to be justifiable homicide rattled the heart of Seattle's swanky downtown shopping district late Saturday...

Seattle Times staff reporter

A bizarre case of what appeared to be justifiable homicide rattled the heart of Seattle's swanky downtown shopping district late Saturday morning.

Seattle police are still piecing together what happened, but this much is known: A young man was killed on the crowded sidewalk outside Westlake Center, and the confessed shooter was allowed to walk out of a police station.

The case, according to police and witnesses, began at 11 a.m. Saturday with a 911 call.

Witnesses reported a man in a yellow shirt acting erratically, insulting and threatening passing pedestrians at Pike Street and Boren Avenue near the Washington State Convention and Trade Center, said Seattle police spokeswoman Deb Brown.

A half-hour later, a man matching the same description was reported near Westlake Center. At the same time, a second man, described by witnesses as balding and wearing a leather jacket, was walking through the nearby plaza after finishing his lunch.

Neither man's identity was released by police on Saturday.

The man in the yellow shirt apparently focused in on the second man, saying, "I am going to kill you," Brown said. He then began punching and kicking the second man until the man fell to the sidewalk.

"He was down there, minding his own business. There is nothing to think he was anything but a random target," Brown said.

The victim happened to have a concealed-weapons permit, Brown said, and he was carrying a handgun. He pulled out the gun and fired once, hitting his attacker in the abdomen.

"It looked to me like he shot him in self-defense," said Linda Vu, who was across the street from the shooting, handing out fliers for political activist Lyndon LaRouche. "It's kind of crazy."

The man in the yellow shirt died after being taken to Harborview Medical Center. The King County Medical Examiner was trying to determine his identity, a task complicated by the fact that the man carried no identification.

Several nearby Seattle police officers heard the gunshot. When they arrived at the shooting scene, the victim, sitting on a streetside planter full of purple pansies, handed the gun to them and said, "I am the one who did this," according to Assistant Police Chief Jim Pugel.

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The man was arrested, but after questioning him and other witnesses, detectives determined they did not have probable cause to book him into the King County Jail. The man was released. Police said they were withholding his name as a crime victim — of the assault.

It will be up to the county prosecutor to determine whether the man will face charges. But Pugel said, "It could be considered justifiable homicide."

The shooting stunned Jim and Edith Welsh, tourists from Australia who'd just left the Nordstrom store across the street when police arrived. Peering across the police tape draped across Pine Street, Welsh hugged his wife. "I think we're going back to our hotel right now," he said.

Jonathan Martin: 206-464-2605 or jmartin@seattletimes.com

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