Suspect arrested; five hospitalized, three in critical condition
SEATTLE, Washington (CNN) — Seattle police are beefing up security at temples and mosques Saturday after a woman was killed in a suspected hate crime linked to the Middle East crisis.
Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske said a Muslim gunman killed a woman and wounded five others at a Jewish center in Seattle, Washington, Friday afternoon, and police were protecting mosques as well as synagogues out of fears of retaliation.
A U.S. citizen, Naveed Afzal Haq, has been arrested and booked on a charge of murder and five charges of attempted murder. (Watch armed police take aim as panicked women run — 1:44)
The 31-year-old Muslim of Pakistani descent was angry at Israeli airstrikes in Lebanon, officials said.
“This was a crime of hate, and there’s no place for that in the city of Seattle,” Mayor Greg Nickels said.
“This was a purposeful hateful act, as far as we know, by an individual acting alone.”
Haq, who lives in Pasco, 180 miles from Seattle, is being held in King County Jail.
Kerlikowske said Haq walked into the Jewish Federation building shortly after 4 p.m. armed with a large caliber semi-automatic handgun.
He asked for the manager and then started shooting.
One woman was killed and five others wounded, police said.
The five victims were hospitalized; three of the women were wounded critically while the other two victims, including a 37-year-old who is 20 weeks pregnant, were in satisfactory condition.
The wounded ranged in age from 23 to 43. Although all were women, nothing indicated that women were targeted, Kerlikowske said.
Marla Meislin-Dietrich, a co-worker not in the building at the time, said staff members recalled Haq as saying: “I am a Muslim American, angry at Israel,” according to The Associated Press. The AP quoted her as saying his shooting was described as random.
About 12 minutes after the shooting began, the man laid down his handgun and surrendered to SWAT officers, Kerlikowske said.
Kerlikowske said he believed the shooting was a hate crime, based on what Haq had said to a 911 operator and supervisor. Kerlikowske declined to divulge further details.
“We are also protecting mosques, because there is always the concern of retaliatory crime or retaliatory incident,” Kerlikowske said.
Assistant Police Chief Nick Metz said police had no specific information about any threats, but his department had issued an alert on Thursday “reminding officers to be vigilant to monitor synagogues and mosques in the city.”
In a written statement, the Council on American-Islamic Relations on Friday condemned the attack.
“The American Muslim and Jewish communities must do whatever is within their power to prevent the current conflict in the Middle East from being transplanted to this country,” the Washington-based civil rights and advocacy group said.
Robert Jacobs, Pacific Northwest Regional director for the Anti-Defamation League, told CNN the group has been warning Jewish institutions to be wary and have adequate security because of the ongoing conflict in the Middle East.
If they cannot, he said, it would be better for Jews “not to congregate in one location that might be an obvious site.”