Gunman Attacks Headquarters of Seattle Jewish Organization

SEATTLE -- The gunman who forced his way into the offices of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle on Friday afternoon put a gun to the head of a 13-year-old girl to gain entry to the building, police said Saturday afternoon.

The man, who described himself as a Muslim American angry with Israel, then opened fire with two handguns, killing one woman and wounding five others before surrendering to police.

The dead woman was identified Saturday morning as Pamela Waechter, 58.

At a news conference Saturday afternoon, Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske said the gunman was stopped on a minor traffic violation -- he had been driving down a street exclusively used by buses, about a half-hour before the shooting. He said he did nothing to arouse the officer's suspicions.

The man then presumably drove to the federation building, where he hid behind a plant in the lobby for a short time. Kerlikowske said he waited for someone to come in to gain access into the office. When a 13-year-old girl walked up, he put a gun to her head and forced her to take him inside.

"She could not have kept him out," Kerlikowske said. "She was a hostage." The man carried two semi-automatic handguns and extra ammunition into the federation's offices, the chief said.

"Once inside he immediately started firing at people."

He rattled off anti-Israel slurs and commanded people not to dial 911. But shooting victim Dayna Klein, who is 17 weeks pregnant, ignored him.

Seconds after being shot in the arm, she crawled across the floor toward a phone and called for help.

Within minutes police were at the building and the man put down his two semi-automatic handguns and surrendered.

Kerlikowske also lauded two 911 dispatchers for their courage. "I was absolutely stunned by the level of calmness and coolness," said Kerlikowske, adding that he has listened to the minutes of 911 tapes.

Police identified the suspect as Naveed Afzal Haq, 30, who until recently had lived in Everett, Wash. A law-enforcement source said Haq apparently has a history of mental illness. Haq, described as a studious loner, was raised in the Tri-Cities area and his family has close ties to the local Muslim community center. Court records show Haq has a charge of lewd conduct pending against him in Benton County.

At a bail hearing Saturday afternoon, King County District Court Judge Barbara Linde set bail at $50 million and found probable cause that Haq could face one charge of first-degree murder and five charges of attempted-murder.

Prosecutors will meet next week to decide whether they'll pursue the death penalty, said spokesman Dan Donohoe.

Haq's public defender asked to waive his client's appearance, which the judge denied. Appearing in court, Haq was clean-shaven, shackled and wearing a white ultra security jail uniform.

Officials at Harborview Medical Center on Saturday said the three women critically injured in the gunfire had been upgraded from critical to serious condition.

Three of the victims underwent surgery Friday night. They are Layla Bush, 23, of Seattle; Christina Rexroad, 29, of Everett; and Cheryl Stumbo, 43, of Seattle.

The two other victims, Klein, 37, of Seattle, and Carol Goldman, 35, of Seattle, remained in satisfactory condition.

Waechter grew up in Minneapolis, Minn., as a Lutheran, the daughter of a businessman. She converted to Judaism after marrying Bill Waechter, an airline pilot, and the couple moved to Seattle in 1979. After raising their two children, Waechter became a student at the University of Washington, graduating with a degree in nutrition.

She became much more active in the Jewish community than her husband, Bill Waechter, from whom she is now divorced. She worked at Jewish Family Service and later at the Jewish Federation, where she did outreach and fundraising. She rose from secretary to two-term president at Temple B'nai Torah.

The shooting came a day after the FBI had warned Jewish organizations nationwide to be on alert after Hezbollah leaders in Lebanon and al-Qaida's second in command urged that the war raging in the Middle East be carried to the U.S. However, the law-enforcement source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said there is no evidence that Haq was involved with any group.

"He said he hates Israel," said the source, who is part of the Seattle Joint Terrorism Task Force, which was called in to help investigate the shootings.

David Gomez, the assistant special agent-in-charge of the Seattle FBI office, said there is "nothing to indicate he is part of a larger organization."

"We believe he is a lone individual with antagonism toward this organization," Gomez said.

Police and witnesses say the man forced his way through a security door just after 4 p.m. after an employee had keyed in the access code. He began firing indiscriminately with a semiautomatic 9 mm handgun. The man announced he was a Muslim American as he began shooting, according to people who talked to the survivors. Seattle Police Assistant Chief Nick Metz said there were at least 18 people in the offices when the shooting started. Many fled out a back door as the gunfire erupted.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, founded in 1926, is an umbrella organization for the local Jewish community. It raises money for Jewish social-welfare organizations, runs youth and adult Jewish educational programs, and engages in efforts in support of Israel. The federation's mission is to ensure Jewish survival and enhance the quality of Jewish life locally, in Israel and worldwide.

The center is located on Third Avenue between Lenora and Virginia streets in Belltown.

Witnesses say the gunman shot one receptionist, then ordered her to dial 911. He then took the phone from her.

"He told the police that it was a hostage situation and he wanted us to get our weapons out of Israel," said one woman who works in the building and heard the account from the wounded co-worker.


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