by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
Capitol Hill is going through tremendous change. Anyone that returns to Capitol Hill after having moved away, even if after just a year, returns and finds parts of the neighborhood unrecognizable. And while there has always been an element of danger, unlike many dense central city neighborhoods, the 'Hill' has never been known for gun battles and murder.
The LGBTQ community, which undoubtedly stakes its claim as the neighborhood's keepers, is nonviolent. Fights inside of Gay bars are pretty rare and even when one does break out security personnel do a good job at breaking up the melee and it's back to the dancing and the drinking. It's not that LGBTQ people, in particular, can't fight, it's just that we would rather not. Call us crazy but we actually like to go out to have a good time for the sake of having a good time. Hence the term, 'Have a Gay old time.' But these recent days and nights on Capitol Hill violence has come to us. And it is dangerous for sure.
At 2 a.m. Sunday morning, just as bars and nightclubs across the Hill were closing down and pushing all of the customers out into the streets, more than 15 shots rang out outside Baltic Room at Pine and Melrose. The scene that witnesses describe is something out of a movie; something you would never expect to find on Capitol Hill. According to eyewitness statements, people began to duck and run in all directions, while others hit the ground or took cover wherever they could.
Then, somehow, among the confusion and fear, a security guard, who was off-duty but hanging out at Baltic Room, their place of employment, retrieved a gun they are permitted to carry from their vehicle parked 15 feet away from the madness, and returned fire with one shot from the south side of Pine.
When it was over, Ramon Mitchell, 25, was found shot in the parking lot on Pine between Melrose and Boren. Witnesses to the shooting had begun CPR on Mitchell and officers continued to administer CPR to the victim after they arrived until the area was secure enough for Seattle Fire medic units to respond. Arriving officers had called for more help because they had over 100 people to contain, interview, and disperse, which could not be done without more officers on the scene.
Police spokeswoman Officer Lauren Lovanhill said many people were standing around outside the club but there were no other victims. Bullets struck several vehicles and on Monday, employees at Seattle Counseling Service, which shares the parking lot where the shooting took place, found a bullet hole in the window of one of their conference rooms, that continued to travel upwards once it pierced the glass and had become lodged in the ceiling. Luckily, SCS was closed at the time.
Mitchell was taken to Harborview Medical Center Trauma Center with life-threatening injuries and was pronounced dead a short time later. Witnesses at the scene believed the young man was dead, or not going to live for very much longer, when he was found in the parking lot. According to crime data, Ramon 'Monie Ratt' Mitchell was the 17th homicide in the City of Seattle for 2015.
One witness, David, whose real name is unknown because he said he would not speak to media using his real name for fear of reprisal, said he knew Ramon and that he was a 'nice person' and that he knew his friend would not make it because his injuries were 'obviously critical.'
'When they came out of the club, it was like, this group of guys and Monie was with them, and it was obvious they were going to fight,' David told Seattle Gay News, referring to a group of men that left Baltic Room in a confrontation with one another, 'And then all of a sudden they just started shooting. I ducked out of the way until the shooting stopped. Then I saw him. They didn't have to do him like that. He was a good person.'
According a Seattle Times staffer reporter, Mitchell was the son of Ritchie 'OG Ratt' Williams - a member of Seattle's Hoover Crips who was fatally shot in 2013. It is unknown to SGN if Ramon Mitchell was gang-affiliated or not. According to court files, Mitchell was arrested in 2014 during the investigation of a South Seattle burglary and was convicted for unlawful possession of a firearm. Mitchell was sentenced to a year in jail.
Police say officers located several separate groups of shell casings within 1.5 blocks of the shooting on Sunday, indicating multiple people fired weapons. Police also recovered at least one gun at the scene and witnesses reported physical descriptions of at least two different shooters firing into the air. As of press time, SGN checked with SPD about the case and they said that the investigation is ongoing and nobody has been taken into custody.
There are some confusing reports of what took place at the melee.
Later Sunday morning, SPD reported that an armed man was taken into custody near the shooting and his gun was taken into evidence by the police, but it was not believed the suspect was involved in the shooting, according to radio dispatches. And then there's this confusing tidbit: a 911 caller reported that the occupants of a vehicle pulled a gun after a hit and run at Boren and Pine around the time of the shooting. Police are also investigating a report that about seven shots fired were heard near 23rd and S. Jackson about 45 minutes following the Pine St. shooting. Do the police think they were the same people or not? Seattle Police Department has not commented as of press time.
Commentors to CHS Blog's story about the violent shooting had some interesting things to say:
One person, whose screen name was Babby [sic] bottle said, 'I blame bottle service. That's the surest way to draw a crowd of douche bags. I don't know why it is allowed. If I were still a server I'd be worried, because a person who seems sober when they come in can - thanks to bottle service - get really screwed up and suddenly you've over-served them.'
A person calling themselves Optimum commented, 'For years some club areas in much larger cities (London UK for one) have implemented measures to identify and deny entry to known trouble makers not just in one club but most clubs. Some areas use thumb prints from male patrons at entry. In lower British Columbia a task force works with bars, clubs, health clubs, restaurants to trespass known gang members so that they effectively have fewer and fewer places they can go out to if they participate in gang activity. Seattle, of course, would officially balk at most of this but as the city experiences growth and as part of that growth includes 'entertainment districts' chalk full of bars. At what point does the collective community choose its own well-being over the appearance of tolerance of anything and anyone?'
Hip hop nights, which Baltic Room's owners, Jason Brotman, who is Gay, and Rachel Fine scheduled for their Saturday night party, can be troublesome, bar and club owners tell SGN. Baltic Room does not currently have an LGBTQ-specific programming.
According to some residents on Capitol Hill, Baltic Room, which once housed such LGBTQ and nonviolent parties as ElektroPOP and Sugar Beat, has recently received a number of complaints from neighbors saying the crowds that the nightclub attracted were violent and loud, and were known to stick around after the club was closed and cause problems in the neighborhood. One neighbor wrote to CHS Blog and talked about how terrible the club's crowd had gotten, saying such unflattering things like men peeing wherever they wanted, being extra loud all hours of the morning and more.
The club's response was typical. They claim absolutely no responsibility directly to the violence and act as though it is business as usual except vaguely saying, 'We are anxious to be better neighbors than we were the day before and want to work with our lower Capitol Hill area family to do so.'
Here is more from their statement, 'We were as shocked and saddened at last night's events in the parking lot on the north side of Pine Street as you and the victim, as well as their friends and family are in our thoughts today.'
'Baltic Room has been a part of the lower Capitol Hill neighborhood for the better part of eighteen years, in that time playing host to thousands of events, from LGBTQ weddings, to nonprofit fundraisers, to dance music events of every flavor,' the statement continues by frontloading that their club has had other programming in the past and continues, 'While we obviously cannot control situations that happen outside our property, we do realize that we can affect them and have worked closely with the East Precinct police department to not only ensure the neighborhood we've called home all these years stays safe, but to be an active part of helping keep it that way.'
According to Baltic Room, 'We have asked many times for there to be closer supervision of that lot, but like you, are at the mercy for an underfunded department who, on a nightly basis, has a very busy swath of territory to cover.'
'While there is no evidence at this point that the nexus of last night's event originated at Baltic Room, generally speaking, we have worked very closely with the city, Washington State Liquor Control Board and the nightlife commission, as well as others on numerous ways to ensure that we are providing one of the safest event spaces in the city, up to and including the removal of events and promotion teams we felt were maintaining a nonchalant attitude about the safety of guests and residents of our neighborhood,' said officials at Baltic Room, without clarifying if they have dismissed the current Saturday night programming.
The nightclub owners conclude by saying, 'We'll be pro-actively engaging in a dialogue with SPD about the event, what led up to it, and what our team can do to better spot and intervene in these types of tragedies outside our property, before they occur. We welcome you to be a part of that conversation. As one of the anchor businesses in the neighborhood, we take a great of pride in it and in building bridges between neighbors.'
Currently, the SPD investigation is top priority. No suspects have yey been named, identified or arrested. SPD homicide detectives are asking for the public's help to piece together what exactly went down that led to the murder of a young man in our neighborhood by asking witnesses to call SPD's homicide/assault tip line at 206-233-5000.
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