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Originally published March 8, 2013 at 4:45 PM | Page modified March 9, 2013 at 10:25 PM

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Condition improves for N. Seattle shooting victim

Police have arrested a Seattle Parks and Recreation employee in the shooting of an administrator who runs the programs at the city’s community centers. The administrator is in serious condition at Harborview.

Seattle Times staff reporters

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The condition of the man shot Friday at a Seattle Parks and Recreation building was upgraded Saturday from critical to serious, according to a nursing supervisor at Harborview Medical Center.

Bill Keller, 65, was shot in the chest at a North Seattle maintenance building, touching off an hours-long search for the suspected shooter. Seattle’s pools and community centers were locked down during the search because the suspected shooter is a parks employee.

The shooting happened just before the end of the school day, and city officials were worried that children would be heading to community centers on a sunny afternoon, said Mayor Mike McGinn.

Schools near the Green Lake-area shooting site kept students inside as police conducted a search that began in Bitter Lake and eventually ended with the arrest of Carolyn “Zoom” Piksa, 46, at her home in Burien, police said.

She is scheduled to appear in court Saturday afternoon at the King County Jail. The Prosecutor’s Office is expected to release court paperwork that could provide additional details, including a possible motive, of the shooting.

Keller was shot just before 2 p.m. at the maintenance building at North 82nd Street and Densmore Avenue North. He is executive director of Associated Recreation Council (ARC), a nonprofit that runs the programs offered at the city’s community centers.

Keller was the only one targeted, though there were five to seven other people in the building at the time, said Assistant Police Chief Nick Metz.

Keller called 911 and said he’d been shot.

After leaving the 82nd Street building, the suspect stopped at the Bitter Lake Community Center and menaced people there, brandishing a weapon, police said.

William Smith, 25, of Lynnwood, said a colleague at the Bitter Lake center started screaming for people to get to safety.

“I figured it was something serious,” he said, noting that he climbed under a desk. He never saw the woman, but others were able to identify her, he said.

Police used Piksa’s cellphone signal to trace her to her home in Burien around 5 p.m. She came out unarmed immediately after she was ordered to over a loudspeaker, Metz said.

He said it was too early to know a motive, and that he doesn’t know the context of the relationship between Piksa and Keller.

Piksa has been a parks-department employee since 1986. She is an assistant coordinator for community centers, and worked at several of them around the city, including Miller Community Center and Montlake Community Center, according to city records.

During the search, Sgt. Sean Whitcomb said police did not believe she was out to hurt other people. According to court records, Piksa has no criminal convictions in Washington.

Sandy Piksa, the suspect’s stepmother, said Piksa had been struggling since her father died 2½ years ago. She said her stepdaughter has “always been very quiet and subdued.”

Piksa’s nephew, Cody Shearer, of Seattle, said his aunt’s behavior changed drastically after her dog Roulette was killed during a break-in at her Burien home in July. After that incident, she was terrified to return home and slept at the homes of friends and in her vehicle, he said.

Shearer said Piksa had recently been on disability and was being treated for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Several schools, including Broadview-Thomson School, Bagley Elementary, Wilson Pacific and West Woodland Elementary, were sheltering in place, a step short of a lockdown, immediately after the shooting.

Joshua Picar, 14, an eighth-grader at Broadview-Thomson K-8, said he was sitting in history class when an announcement came over the intercom that there had been an “accident” and that students were to shelter in place.

Teachers began locking the classroom doors. Using their cellphones, a few students soon figured out that there had been a shooting. By 3:40 p.m., the school began dismissing students, but many of the students who live near the school had to wait for their parents or for the area to be cleared, he said.

The victim, Keller, is married with three grown kids, according to ARC board President Charlie Zaragoza. He’s worked for the Associated Recreation Council at least 10 years, said former board member Jackie Ramels.

Keller was the first executive director of the nonprofit, which was formed to help solve funding problems in the parks department. The nonprofit
collects money from community-center programs and distributes it to the city’s 32 community centers for child care, sports, educational and other programs.

Zaragoza said the job could sometimes be difficult, as Keller is often charged with deciding which programs to cut and which to fund.

“Bill did everything within his power to protect the entire system,” he said. “None of us is perfect, but he just cares so much about what he does.”

McGinn said Keller had been an extraordinary partner and friend to the parks for a long time.

Ramels, who has known Keller since he started working at the parks department, said she’d never seen Keller get into a tense situation with anyone.

“Actually, he’s very good at diffusing tense situations,” Ramels said. “That’s why it was quite a surprise to hear what happened today.”

Keller’s neighbor, Bok Kwon, 67, also said Keller is known for calming tense situations. When she and her husband were fighting, she said, Keller and his wife came over to calm and counsel them through their rough patch.

“If I needed help, he always helped,” Kwon said.

Seattle Times staff reporters Christine Clarridge, Maureen O‘Hagan, Lynn Thompson, Alexa Vaughn and news researchers Gene Balk and Miyoko Wolf contributed to this report.

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