Hairdresser Danny Vega's fatal beating a mystery
Seattle homicide detectives are hopeful someone will come forward with information to lead them to three young men who robbed and beat Danny Vega, a South Seattle hairdresser and prominent member of Seattle's Filipino community, who died Sunday, 12 days after he was attacked on an evening walk.
Seattle Times staff reporters
Tips soughtAnyone with information on the attack on Danny Vega is asked to call the Seattle Police Department's tip line at 206-233-5000. Callers can remain anonymous.
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For a second night after Danny Vega's death from an unexplained beating, friends and relatives gathered in his Rainier Valley hair salon Monday to say the Rosary and remember a "living legend" of the local Filipino-American community.
Candles, photos of Vega and statues of Jesus and the Virgin Mary covered the basin at the home salon where Vega styled hair for 20 years.
"He's a very kind person. He's harmless. He never had any enemies. The neighbors loved him," said housemate James Saarenas, first to see Vega after the Nov. 15 beating in a nearby parking lot.
Saarenas and others close to Vega, a gay man, believe the killing was a hate crime. The three assailants, Vega told Saarenas, jumped him, screamed at him, punched and kicked him before taking his cellphone and keys.
"It's horrible," said police spokesman Sgt. Sean Whitcomb. "It appears to be a robbery. Property was stolen and the victim, Danny Vega, was viciously beaten. We're certainly open to the possibility [he was attacked because he's gay], but the motive remains unknown to us."
Police hope someone will come forward with information to lead them to the assailants.
The attack on Vega, 58, initially was investigated as a robbery but was quickly assigned to homicide detectives because of the severity of Vega's injuries, Whitcomb said. Vega suffered injuries to his brain, kidneys and liver and was placed on life support after falling into a coma.
An autopsy is scheduled for Tuesday, according to the King County Medical Examiner's Office.
The attack was at night a few blocks from his home as Vega took one of his twice-daily walks.
Friends of Vega's were dealing with both anger and fear in the wake of his killing, but tears gave way to laughter as they remembered his mischievous sense of humor and his distinctive way of laughing while covering his mouth with his hand.
"Oh, you're so fat!" Vega told Saarenas's niece Genevieve Saarenas when she was pregnant.
And they remembered his generosity.
Vega had agreed to emcee the 1-year birthday party for Genevieve Saarenas's daughter in December, and he practiced for it nearly every day. "He was the emcee for all parties, weddings, everything," she said. "He had such a great voice. He knew how to make people laugh."
Asked why he sometimes washed a client's hair and then, as if in a French farce, stashed the client, hair still wet, in another room and then washed a second client's hair, he replied: "If I don't wash their hair, they'll leave."
Even as competition grew among hair salons in the neighborhood, Vega refused to turn in a competitor for employing an unlicensed hairdresser. "They're just trying to make a living," James Saarenas heard him say.
Vega recently sold his house and planned to use the proceeds to travel to Europe when he retired at 62, Saarenas said.
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn offered condolences to Vega's family and friends Monday in a blog post.
"He was a regular volunteer at the Filipino Community Center, most recently helping with the 76th Anniversary of the Filipino Community in Seattle event on November 5," McGinn wrote. "At his salon, he was known for his creative styles and his friendly manner. He was active in Seattle's LGBT community, including his participation in the Miss FCS Gay and Miss Asian Gay pageants."
Vega was walking in the 4200 block of South Othello Street around 7:45 p.m. on Nov. 15 when he was attacked from behind by three young men, who robbed and beat him, according to a police report.
He lost consciousness and awoke nearly an hour later "with pain all over his face and chest," the report says. Vega was able to walk home, where his roommates called 911.
Wincing in pain and disoriented, Vega told officers he'd been attacked by three African-American males, all around 18 years of age, according to the report. But he "could not provide any further description due to his injuries and pain level," the report says.
Vega was taken to Harborview Medical Center, where he died at approximately 11 a.m. Sunday, according to a niece who reported Vega's death on her Facebook page.
Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or email@example.com
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