One by one, victims and witnesses returned Monday to the chaotic and terrifying afternoon of July 28, 2006, when Naveed Haq forced his way into the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle and gunned down six employees.
It was a hot, sunny Friday and employee Cheryl Stumbo was dreaming ahead to the weekend when she heard a loud voice outside her office demand to speak to a supervisor, she told jurors on the opening day of Haq’s murder trial for killing one woman and wounding five others at the federation offices.
“All of a sudden he was there, holding a gun,” Stumbo testified. She heard a bang and smelled something burning. She told a co-worker to call 911 before the pain in her side made her crumple to the floor. Beside her, another co-worker, Layla Bush, was crying and couldn’t feel her legs.
“Shhhh,” Stumbo told Bush. “Play dead so he doesn’t come back.”
Haq, dressed in a sweater vest and seated at a table with his two attorneys, kept his head down as the prosecution opened its case. He lifted his head only when his attorneys spoke or cross-examined witnesses.
Haq, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to one count of aggravated first-degree murder, five counts of attempted first-degree murder and numerous other charges, including malicious harassment — the state’s hate-crime law.
According to police and witnesses, Haq, 32, who is of Pakistani descent, made anti-Semitic statements before and during the slayings.
His attorneys will not dispute that Haq entered the federation’s Belltown offices and shot six women, killing 58-year-old campaign director Pamela Waechter, before he surrendered to police. But they will attempt to prove that he was insane at the time and therefore legally not responsible for his actions.
In December 2006, then-King County Prosecuting Attorney Norm Maleng chose not to seek the death penalty against Haq after reviewing his mental-health-treatment records. If convicted of the aggravated-murder charge, he faces life in prison without parole.
“Mr. Haq believed that what he was doing was actually going to reverse the course of two wars and have a positive societal effect,” defense attorney John Carpenter said during his opening statement Monday morning. “This is insanity.”
Carpenter told the jury that when Haq traveled from the Tri-Cities to Seattle the morning of the rampage, he had become convinced that God had sanctioned the attack on the federation.
Carpenter showed the jury a timeline of mental-illness symptoms beginning in 2003. Haq’s problems — including road-rage incidents, bar fights, compulsive trips across the country and paranoid behavior — began when his medications were switched by doctors in 2005, Carpenter said.
From the fall of 2005 until the federation shootings, Haq, a man with two college degrees who couldn’t hold down a job, complained almost weekly to a therapist about aggression and anger and asked to be put back on the mood-stabilizing drug lithium but was not taken seriously, his attorney said.
Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Erin Ehlert outlined a different story during her opening statement.
“Naveed Haq was on a mission to make a statement that Jewish people in our society have too much power,” she told the jury. “He planned what he did.”
Haq’s benign discussion with a motorcycle officer during a traffic stop minutes before he arrived at the federation with a knife and two guns, his calm demeanor during the rampage, and his research and preparations starting 10 days before the shootings show that he knew what he was doing, Ehlert said.
Ehlert played a recording of the 911 call made by federation employee Dayna Klein, who was pregnant at the time of the shootings.
“He’s going to take more hostages,” Klein told the operator after she had been shot by Haq, who was standing in her office.
“I want these Jews to get out,” the gunman told the operator after taking the phone from Klein.
The 911 operator told him that the wounded woman needed an ambulance.
“I don’t care,” the gunman said calmly.
“… I just want to make a point … all these Jewish senators, all the media’s being controlled by Jews. I’m sick and tired of it … Patch me in to CNN.”
Stumbo, shot through her abdomen, said Monday that she heard Haq yell that he was at the federation “to make a statement. That he was an angry Muslim American.”
A bleeding Stumbo, worried about her 14-year-old niece who was visiting from out of town and due to arrive at the federation’s offices any minute, told jurors she made a difficult choice to get up from on the floor and look for the girl.
“I just took a deep breath, turned to the left and started going,” said Stumbo, who had no idea of the gunman’s whereabouts.
Stumbo never found her niece, Kelsey Burkum. But Haq did, Burkum, now 16, testified Monday.
She had made her way by bus from art camp that afternoon to the offices and was near the building’s locked front door when Haq pulled out a silver handgun from a black briefcase and told her to open the door, Burkum testified.
Once inside, Haq told her he was “just doing it to make a statement,” she said.
Terrified, Burkum continued down the hallway, ducked into a restroom and was hiding in a stall when she heard shots and someone screaming to call 911. The girl pulled out a cellphone and dialed.
Her voice, replayed on a tape for the jury, trembled as she spoke with an operator for about 10 minutes before a police officer led her out. He shielded her from the body of Waechter — who was shot a second time by Haq as she tried to escape — as they passed, said Ehlert.
Witness testimony is scheduled to resume this morning. The trial is expected to last at least four weeks.
Superior Court Judge Paris Kallas is also expected to rule on whether mental-health experts will be able to refer to Haq’s 55-minute interview with Seattle police detectives when discussing their opinions about Haq. Kallas ruled last week that the interview was inadmissible as evidence because police ignored Haq’s six requests for an attorney, in violation of state and federal law.
According to a transcript, the interview, conducted just hours after the shootings, included Haq discussing the planning of the rampage, his problems with Jews and his bipolar disorder.
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