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Originally published Sunday, November 2, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Gang ties suspected in shootings near Garfield High School

Two teens were shot, one of them fatally, near Seattle's Garfield High School Friday night.

Seattle Times staff reporter

A 16-year-old boy shot to death near Garfield High School Friday night was the fifth teenager killed in Seattle this year, a trend that had already prompted Mayor Greg Nickels to propose a new $9 million initiative to prevent youth violence.

Police would not confirm that Friday's killing was gang-related, although the department's gang unit is investigating the crime.

Several people who visited the crime scene Saturday and who said they knew the victim claimed the shooting had to do with gang rivalries.

"Whatever it is classified as, it is definitely a tragedy," said police spokeswoman Renee Witt.

A 15-year-old boy also was shot and wounded in the Friday incident, which occurred behind Garfield High School on 25th Avenue near East Jefferson Street in the Central District. The wounded boy made it to the Garfield Teen Life Center after being shot in the torso, according to police. He is in stable condition at Harborview Medical Center but is not cooperating with police.

Witt stressed that the shooting did not occur on school property and was not linked to a Halloween event nearby.

Police and the King County Medical Examiner's Office have not released the identities of the victims.

In his 2009-10 budget proposal in September, Nickels noted that overall crime in Seattle has dropped, but incidents of youth violence have stayed constant.

Meanwhile, parents and neighbors are concerned about a rash of some 30 assaults and thefts that have occurred near Garfield since the school reopened this fall after a two-year renovation.

Those incidents, not all of which have been confirmed by police, were discussed at a meeting of the East Precinct Crime Prevention Coalition on Oct. 23.

Stephanie Tschida, coalition chairwoman, said assaults and thefts near the school tend to go "up and down." Tschida, who put four of her children through Garfield, said, "There has been a pattern of kids who live in the neighborhood picking on students who do not."

John Hayes, Seattle Police community relations director, said he couldn't confirm an escalation in violence near the school. But Hayes said police are encouraging students and parents to report incidents so the city has an accurate account of violence.

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On Saturday morning, several teenagers and young men who said they knew the dead boy appeared shaken by the shooting. They stood near a stairway leading from 25th Avenue to Garfield Playfield, where the dead boy had collapsed.

One teen, who didn't want to give his name, choked back tears, saying he'd known the victim since they both attended the same kindergarten. "I don't believe it," he said of the shooting.

A woman, who also declined to give her name, sobbed and said the dead boy was a "good kid with a lot of issues" who had performed with her godson's rap group.

Bob Young: 206-464-2174 or byoung@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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