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Originally published September 12, 2011 at 7:14 AM | Page modified September 13, 2011 at 3:38 PM

Bus-stop shooting victims homeless, vulnerable, say friends

An early-morning shooting at a bus shelter in South Seattle left one man dead and three people wounded.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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The four people who were shot at a bus shelter in South Seattle early Monday were older, homeless and vulnerable, according to friends.

Friends say they used the bus shelter near South McClellan Street and Rainier Avenue as a place to gather, have a drink and shoot the breeze, and that the group could be found there almost any evening. They tried hard, though, to avoid conflict, according to acquaintances.

"We're all just trying to stay out of trouble," said James Thompson, 64, who had been at the shelter with the group about 15 minutes before the shooting.

The four victims were sitting in the bus shelter shortly before 3 a.m. when a group of three men drove up in a car, said Mark Jamieson, spokesman for the Seattle police.

"The three suspects got out and walked over to the shelter, and there was some sort of confrontation between the parties," Jamieson said. "One of the suspects produced a handgun and fired shots, killing one of the males and wounding everyone else."

One victim ran across the street to a gas station, where he collapsed in a parking lot, Jamieson said.

Another, a 54-year-old man, died at the scene, police said.

The three wounded victims were transported to Harborview Medical Center, according to police.

Most seriously injured was a 29-year-old man reported to be in critical condition, according to police. The other victims, a 43-year-old woman and a 68-year-old man, suffered non-life-threatening injuries, police said.

Police did not release any further descriptions of the three men in the car, who Jamieson said drove off after the assault. He said homicide detectives are investigating but have made no arrests.

Sam Lee, 58, another friend of the victims, said he had been sharing a nearby vacant home with the 54-year-old and several other transients.

The deceased man was from New Orleans, he said, and was known as "a good dude who didn't mess with nobody."

Lee and Thompson said that few among their friends receive any state or federal assistance.

Instead, they survive day to day by "panhandling and washing cars," Thompson said.

Neither Thompson nor Lee had any idea what could have been behind the fatal confrontation.

Lee, who also had been at the shelter with the group before the shooting, said he'd heard "there was an argument" but didn't know what it was about.

"They were just sitting there, having a drink," Lee said.

Thompson said that when he left, the group was laughing and talking about what they always talked about: "Nothing."

He said that a few in the group could get mouthy when they'd been drinking, so he didn't discount the possibility of an exchange that may have led to gunfire. Both men said, though, that as far as they knew, nobody in the group had any beef with any other group, or person, over anything.

"We very seldom see anyone out that time of night, not even the police," Thompson said.

Christine Clarridge can be reached at 206-464-8983 or cclarridge@seattletimes.com.

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