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Originally published Friday, May 16, 2014 at 9:49 PM

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Drive-by gunfire hits Rainier Avenue South business block

The owner of a business struck by gunfire Thursday night says he fears the threat of violence will keep customers away from the family-oriented neighborhood.


Seattle Times staff reporters

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In between making pizza and taking phone orders on Friday afternoon, Sorin Ragsdale pointed out the size of the holes left by bullets that shattered windows and lodged in a wall at his small business on Rainier Avenue South.

The night before, occupants of a black sedan fired more than 50 times into the retail building that’s home to Tino’s Pizza, VIP Cuts and Treehouse Collective, a medical-marijuana dispensary, Seattle police said.

There were no injuries, but Ragsdale said fear of violence could keep customers away from this family-oriented neighborhood, one he considers safe — while the sun’s out.

“And people wonder why I don’t stay open later,” he said.

Ragsdale, who has been in the same location for the past nine years, said he has no idea what motivated the shooting. He’s quite sure it has nothing to do with him personally, and he doesn’t think it has anything to do with the barbershop two doors down.

He’s not so sure about the marijuana dispensary.

“I like the owner, but this didn’t happen before they moved in last year,” he said, noting that the building has been the target of several other, smaller shooting incidents in the past 12 months.

Workers at the dispensary declined to comment.

As to whether the shooting was gang-related, the dispensary the target or if there was another motive: “We really don’t know at this point,” said Seattle Police Department spokeswoman Renee Witt.

The shots that damaged five businesses and five vehicles in the 9400 block of Rainier Avenue South were fired by the occupants of a black sedan, possibly a Camry, around 11 p.m. Thursday.

One witness told police he heard 25 shots from what he believed was a high-powered rifle, police said. Responding officers found 39 shell casings from a rifle, possibly an AK-47, and 14 shells from a handgun, police said.

“The casings littered the street from the 9300 block to the 9500 block,” Witt wrote in a news statement.

Capt. John Hayes, who heads the Police Department’s South Precinct, spent Friday morning talking to business owners and residents.

“This is a shame because so many community people have worked so hard to revitalize this area. There are some real nice family businesses in this area, and the folks who have done this kind of property damage, this kind of stuff, are impacting folks all around this community,” Hayes said.

Like others, he called the area a safe neighborhood.

He said police will increase their presence in the neighborhood but at the same time conceded that the promise sounded like a cliché.

“What I’m going to do is pull together all of the resources we have available, anyone I can get, and systematically work this area,” he said.

Because police know so little about the shooting, they said it is impossible to know immediately whether it was connected to three others in the city in the past week.

On Wednesday, two groups of people opened fire on each other near Othello Playground in the Rainier Valley, but there were no reported injuries, police said. Witnesses told police that one group started shooting at the other around 7:40 p.m. near 45th Avenue South and South Othello Street.

Another shooting incident occurred just after 11 p.m. Monday, when as many as 60 gunshots were fired from a high-powered rifle and two handguns near an apartment complex in the 9200 block of 56th Avenue South. Police were unable to find any damage at the scene.

That shooting was about a block from Thursday night’s drive-by salvo, police said.

Last Saturday, police investigating reports of a man being chased by armed subjects found a pickup damaged by several bullets at 18th Avenue Southwest and Southwest Thistle Street.

The driver, a 17-year-old boy, told officers he had no idea why anyone would shoot at him, according to police. Officers found three spent shell casings in an alley in the 7700 block of 18th Avenue Southwest where they believe the shooting occurred.

Police said last Saturday’s shooting appeared to be “related to ongoing gang activity centered near the 8400 block of Delridge Way Southwest.”

Back on Rainier Avenue South, the new owner of VIP Cuts looked sadly at his broken windows and shook his head. He did not want to talk about the shootings.

Several of his employees, customers and friends, however, had opinions.

All seemed to agree that the shootings were the work of “little dudes” or young people who don’t know how to handle weapons.

“Big Bruce” Williams, whose son works at the barbershop, pointed to the bullet holes near the ceiling and near the ground. “Just look at that,” he said. “They don’t know how to aim.”

jensullivan@seattletimes.com

cclarridge@seattletimes.com

Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this report.



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