‘The most violence we’ve ever seen’: Guns, drugs and gangs contribute to crime wave on Highway 99

This Intercity Trail parking lot, bordering Edmonds and Mountlake Terrace, was the scene of a shooting on Thanksgiving Day 2021.

It’s 2:30 p.m. on Thanksgiving afternoon. Just off Highway 99, an Edmonds family gathered to celebrate – four children, nine adults. Some are in the kitchen, watching the kitchen. Everyone is talking, laughing.

Suddenly, there is a popping sound. “We heard a noise, we looked up to see the broken glass,” a witness told police. The ball lodged in the frame right next to where the owner was standing.

“The glass broke, we assumed it was a BB gun,” another witness said. “We ran to the back fence, heard footsteps and three or more gunshots.”

Half a block away, another witness heard “pop, pop, pop. And I knew it was a gun. I spoke to this witness. To protect them, we do not name the person. “So I got out to see more,” the witness said, “and saw an old black van with two guys in it; one holding what looked like a rifle firing toward the entrance to the parking lot.

How many strokes? “Oh, I heard like 27-30,” the witness replied. “The police picked up a lot of shell casings.” This parking lot is less than 10 feet from the intercity trail. Several days later, two residents of a nearby condo reported that they had also found bullet holes in their walls.

No one was injured in this shooting. Everyone involved escaped before the police arrived. No one has been arrested.

The Thanksgiving Day shooting is the latest — and most alarming — moment in a four-month crime wave that swept through the neighborhood around 222n/a and Highway 99. During this period, police responded to 110 calls.

It’s 110.

Edmonds Police response to the 22200 block of Highway 99. (Photo by Edmonds Police)

“This is the number one public safety issue in Edmonds,” acting deputy chief Josh McClure told us. “This is the greatest violence we have ever seen (in the city).” In four months, Edmonds police alone made 20 arrests for drug trafficking, gun crimes, stolen cars, violations of court orders and outstanding warrants.

In an Oct. 5 chase and shooting that began after a confrontation at a motel on Highway 99, two suspects were injured. Both survived; a suspect did so because of emergency first aid from Edmonds officers after being shot twice in the legs.

Edmonds Police Sgt. David Machado applies a tourniquet and begins combat first aid to a suspect involved in a shooting along Highway 99 on October 5, 2021. The subject was charged in the incident but was also wanted on warrant for another robbery . (Photo courtesy of Edmonds Police)

At least one suspect in the violence of several months is still in detention, in another city. Others made a deposit. Mountlake Terrace and Lynnwood Police, as well as the City of Everett Gang Task Force, joined Edmonds in an attempt to stem the crime wave.

There’s a link that police say connects the 110 calls in the neighborhood over the past four months – the Emerald Best Motel in the 22200 block of Highway 99.

Police response to the Emerald Best Motel – December 16, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Edmonds Police)

McClure said the site had become a “safe haven” for some gang members who moved from Everett in mid-September. This, he says, is where the trouble started. Shots were fired in the parking lot of the motel and in the surrounding area. At least five reports involving firearms are “associated with this motel…and we know there are more than that,” he added. Edmonds also reports seven drug arrests (for methamphetamine, heroin and fentanyl), 10 felony arrests, five stolen vehicle arrests — all related to people visiting or staying at the motel.

The motel’s longtime manager, Peter Kim, said the police had it all wrong.

“A lot of people came over from Everett…someone else, really nice people, rented the room for them,” Kim said. It was mid-September. “And then Everett Gang Unit called us to tell us what these people were, so we cleared out about 15 rooms…all related people,” Kim added. “We had to act immediately. »

Kim said that “we don’t associate with these people; we tell them to leave. He added that “local officials call the police; if the manager doesn’t call, then the manager is involved. He insisted the motel wanted to share information with the police; but that “every time we try to cooperate, they (the police) see us as negative; we try to help them.

Acting Deputy Chief McClure said police were aware that some “hard-working, law-abiding” people were living or staying at the motel – and that police feared for their safety. But, McClure said, “we’ve explicitly told them (the manager and the owner) what’s going on, and I’m getting a denial about it.” McClure added: “If we can identify people in certain rooms and know who they are, why can’t the motel know who it is?”

Emerald Best Manager Kim says the motel has 32 security cameras throughout the resort and they have shared photos and videos with police. McClure agreed the motel shared a video, but that, he said, was the extent of the cooperation.

Plum Tree Plaza fire on September 11, 2021 (Photo courtesy of South County Fire)

The motel is adjacent to the Plum Tree Plaza Mall, which was the target of an arson attack in September. Fourteen businesses were set on fire or smoked out. There were no arrests. Police will not say if they believe there is a connection between the two.

From mid-September to mid-December, Edmonds and nearby police are aware of at least six incidents involving firearms at or near the motel.

October 5

  • Police report an “ongoing shootout” between two suspects at the motel along Highway 99. Both men were injured, one critically.

October

  • A suspect pointed a gun at two people in a room at Emerald Best.
  • Everett Gang Unit chased a suspect in this area who had a stolen weapon.

November 23

  • “A drugged man fired a gun in the motel parking lot,” according to a police statement.

November 25

  • The Thanksgiving Day shooting in the nearby Intercity Trail parking lot.
    • A bullet nearly hit an owner inside the house.
    • Two nearby condos reported bullets in their units.
    • Police say they believe two of the shooters were staying at the motel.

December 16

  • Drive-by shooting in the motel parking lot. No one was hurt.

Edmonds Acting Deputy Chief Shane Hawley, who oversees Edmonds patrol units, told us “we have to go up to this (the motel) thinking everyone there will be armed.” He said that during a shooting, there were at least 20 officers at the scene from different cities. “Nobody there (the motel) cares that we’re there; there is no concern that officers and flashing lights are there. A typical response now, he added, is to send multiple units to that scene on any call.

The police told us that what is happening in this neighborhood is more than a little drug trafficking or small beef. In one bust, they confiscated 1,000 fentanyl tablets. In another case, someone who officers believe was part of the group using the motel threw a pound of crystal meth. This is, Hawley told us, “not your typical drug operation.”

McClure and Hawley agree that Edmonds Police “can’t arrest us to get out of this problem”. Officers from the Everett Gang Unit told Edmonds that some of the people they had been dealing with since September were “known gang members.” Hawley put it this way: “It’s a regional problem, working its way through Snohomish County.” Edmonds joined Mountlake Terrace, Lynnwood and the Everett Gang Unit in an attempt to end the crime wave.

Some cities have turned to abatement or chronic nuisance laws to close, condemn, or even demolish property that has become a serious and chronic community problem. In Seattle, harmful activities include “assault, fighting, drug dealing, prostitution, gangs, and weapons violations.” Edmonds city code permits clean-up procedures; it follows state law in this situation.

Edmonds won’t say if this is something he will pursue, only adding that they are considering a number of options in cooperation with police and nearby towns. “We are working with multiple partners to address this issue,” said Edmonds Police Chief Michelle Bennett. “Arrests of violent criminals are effective, but not if they know they can return to places that support their dangerous activities and we are fortunate that no innocent people have been harmed. Your officers will continue their proactive efforts in these places, but we will also use additional resources and approaches to gain more cooperation from certain companies.”

Edmonds Mayor Mike Nelson also spoke out, “The gun violence that has impacted our Highway 99 community will not be tolerated,” the mayor said. “Our officers have responded to multiple shootings that put them and our community as a whole at risk. We will not allow corporations to be a haven for dangerous criminals. We will provide the support and resources necessary to address this critical public safety issue.

Edmonds City Council member Will Chen’s belongings are in the Highway 99 corridor and he fears for the neighborhood. “This is one of the most important issues for our city and our neighborhood,” he said, adding that “(what happens there) will impact not just 99, but the entire community. the city and the region”. He wants the city to “get the situation under control so that our businesses and residents can feel safe and live in this area.”

Emerald Best Motel manager Kim insisted that “if we see anything illegal we kick them out…drugs…we see it and want to kick them out…we want to keep this area safe; we try very hard.

Acting Deputy Chief McClure said police calls to the area have dropped slightly since mid-December, but he believes motel owners need to take more ownership of their property. He warns that innocent people have been put at risk and that the trouble caused by some who turned the motel into what he called their “safe house” is still “the biggest public threat to Edmonds”.

— By Bob Throndsen

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