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Originally published July 2, 2012 at 9:46 PM | Page modified July 3, 2012 at 9:31 AM

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Shot 'out of nowhere' felled city's 22nd homicide victim, Sherry Soth

Sherry Soth and her friends enjoyed a house party in South Seattle, but as they headed to their car to leave early Sunday, someone fired into the crowd from a moving vehicle, witnesses said. Soth, a 21-year-old, free-spirited fashionista, was shot in the abdomen and later died at Harborview Medical Center.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Tips sought

Seattle police ask that anyone with information on Sunday's shooting call the department's Homicide Tip Line at 206-233-5000, or visit www.crimestoppers.com.

Source: Seattle police

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At the very least it sounds like most of the people at the party aren't stupid enough... MORE
Such a tragedy to lose a lovely child. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family... MORE
Such a shame. Condolences to family and friends. MORE

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Sherry Soth wasn't sure what she wanted to do with her life yet, but the adventurous, free-spirited 21-year-old had plenty of ideas.

She had just moved into a new apartment on Lower Queen Anne but was planning to relocate to Hawaii in the fall. Maybe she would use her artistic talents somehow, or work in a soup kitchen, or perhaps "read books to kids in Cambodia," her parents' homeland, according to one close friend.

Soth was fatally wounded as she and friends were leaving a house party in South Seattle early Sunday. She was shot in the abdomen, and the bullet tore through her liver and severed a major artery. Soth was rushed to Harborview Medical Center but died in surgery, said Victoria Wilson, one of Soth's best friends who was asked by Soth's mother and sisters to speak on the family's behalf.

"They tried to save her," Wilson, 21, said of paramedics and doctors, who had stabilized Soth and got her into surgery.

Five other people, ages 17 to 21, were wounded when gunfire erupted just before 2 a.m. Sunday as the party in the 9700 block of Renton Avenue South was breaking up.

One man was released from Harborview on Sunday afternoon, according to a hospital spokeswoman. She could not provide updates on the conditions of the other four, who also are expected to recover.

Police have said they are looking for two or more shooters but have not released details about their possible identities or reasons for the gunfire.

Soth is the city's 22nd homicide victim this year, a count that already has exceeded by two the number of homicides in all of 2011. Of this year's 22 victims, 20 were fatally shot.

Soth's death is now the eighth unsolved homicide of the year being investigated by Seattle detectives.

Belltown shooting

Roughly 24 hours after the house-party shootings, a man suffered life-threatening injuries early Monday in Belltown after another man fired multiple shots, according to Seattle police spokesman Mark Jamieson.

The two men were involved in an argument that devolved into a fight about 3 a.m. near Second Avenue and Bell Street. One of the men pulled a gun and started firing, striking the victim, who ran west to First Avenue and collapsed, Jamieson said.

Witnesses helped the man until medics arrived but were unable to provide a good description of the shooter, he said.

Among those who came to the man's aid was a homeless veteran known on the streets as Staff Sgt. Royal, according to KING 5. Royal, a 10-year Army veteran, heard the shots and rushed to the wounded man.

"I'm just glad I was there to stop the bleeding. I put a tourniquet around his leg. I think that probably saved his life," Royal told KING 5.

Memorial and vigil

At least 100 people gathered Monday night for a candlelight vigil near the spot where Soth collapsed after she was shot, including her mother and siblings. Also in attendance were a handful of pastors and ministers who denounced recent violence in Seattle and called for those with information to come forward.

"One of the things we know that's going on in this community is unnecessary violence, and it has to stop," said Pastor Lawrence Willis, the chairman of the United Black Christian Clergy of Washington.

"People should be able to go have fun without being victimized."

Dozens of bouquets along with balloons were left at a growing memorial. It was a diverse crowd, made up predominantly of young people but also parents with small children.

There weren't many dry eyes after Carolyn Sopher, accompanied on guitar by her husband, Pastor Maynard Sopher, sang a haunting rendition of "Amazing Grace." Sopher is from New Birth Ministries in Skyway.

Pastor Don Davis, of Kirkland Community AME Church, offered a prayer:

"Give us the courage to take a stand and say we're not going to take it anymore. ... Touch the young people who are here, from every race, creed and color, who are coming here to take a stand against violence and guns."

Soth — who went by the nickname "Pooka" — was a "savvy and chic" fashionista who always was checking out new bars and restaurants, Wilson said. Last August, for her 21st birthday, Soth persuaded friends to accompany her "to this fancy restaurant where they were serving snails and stuff," Wilson said.

Though Soth was only 5 feet tall, she had a larger-than-life personality and brought together friends from disparate parts of her life. She'd started boxing recently and became "a vegetarian all of a sudden," Wilson said.

Her father, Choeun Soth, who is a fisherman in Alaska, finally was reached Monday and notified of his daughter's death, Wilson said. The family is awaiting his return to Seattle before making funeral arrangements, she said.

"Summer reunion"

When Sherry Soth, a cocktail server at Urbane, a wine bar in the Hyatt at Olive 8 hotel in downtown Seattle, got off work at 12:30 a.m. Sunday, Wilson and two other friends — Deitrick Johnson and Juanita Williams — were there to pick her up. The four laughed and talked on the drive to the party. Once there, Soth changed out of her work uniform in the car before heading to the backyard, where a DJ was spinning music on an outdoor stage and a light show illuminated the night.

"It was poppin'. It was fun. It was like a big summer reunion," Wilson said. "This party wasn't a rap party, it was not a 'hood' party. We're all urban hipsters who hang out on the hill," she said, referring to Capitol Hill.

The crowd was mixed — white, black and Asian — and the music that was played crossed genres, Wilson said.

"It was hella chill. There was no drama, no beef, no nothing," she said. "People were taking pictures with each other, people were dancing. There was a lot of mingling and catching up."

By 1:30 a.m., the music had been shut off and people started filtering out, Wilson said.

She and Williams were walking to their car, with Soth and Johnson a few paces behind. Then, "somebody behind us started shooting a gun into the air," and everyone ducked, she said. Wilson got up and saw a black car pull away from the curb.

"All of a sudden I see a gun out the window and they start shooting" into the crowd, Wilson said. "It was like random, out of nowhere. They were shooting straight as they were driving off."

Williams grabbed Wilson and pulled her to the ground. When they got to their feet, they went looking for Soth and Johnson.

"It happened so fast," said Wilson, who saw one young man who had been shot in the neck and a teenage girl on the ground holding her leg. "The bullets were flying everywhere. It was like complete recklessness."

Wilson heard people screaming, "She's dead, she's dead," and found Soth, her orange shirt stained in blood, lying in the driveway.

"She was asking for Deitrick. Her lips were all ashy and she said, 'I don't want to die,' " said Wilson.

Police and medics arrived and told Wilson and her friends to get to Harborview. On the way, the friends called Soth's mother, Sino, and her sisters, Terry, 22, and Sophara, 18. (Soth also has two younger brothers, Peter, 14, and Anthony, 5.) About 5 a.m., Wilson learned her friend had died in the operating room.

"I'm really hurt. I really loved her. I've known her since I was 16. She was my best friend," said Wilson, who along with other partygoers gave statements to police. "This is not OK. We need to find whoever did it. Someone needs to be held accountable."

Seattle Times news researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this report.

Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or sgreen@seattletimes.com

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