Seattle Gunman's Actions Circumvented Tight Building Security

July 31, 2006
Access control procedures were strengthened in 2000, but didn't take into account 'tailgating'

Security has always been in the forefront of the minds of many in Seattle's Jewish community.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle increased its building security, and it did so again in the wake of recent violence between Israel and Lebanon-based Hezbollah guerrillas.

"We have very tight security at that building, especially since 9/11," said Iantha Sidell, former president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle. "We have bulletproof windows, and you have to be buzzed to get in."

Amy Wasser-Simpson, the federation's vice president for planning and community services, said the organization has an outer door that is open to the public and leads into a foyer. There, staff members must punch in a security code to get into the interior of the building, and visitors must have an appointment before the receptionist will buzz them into the building.

There is a policy posted in the foyer telling people if they don't have an appointment, they need to call and make one.

Those strict security guidelines were implemented by many Jewish organizations in 2000, after a gunman walked into a Jewish community center in the Los Angeles area in August 1999 and shot five people.

But none of those security procedures took into account the possibility of someone forcing their way into the building as someone else entered, said federation employee Marla Meislin-Dietrich.

"He was armed and he pushed his way in," she said.

Police arrested Naveed Afzal Haq, 30, in connection with the shootings.

Seattle Rabbi Richard Tobin said the shootings did not come as a surprise, because of events in the Middle East.

Still, Sidell said she doesn't know why anyone would harm the nearly 35 people who work in the downtown Seattle office building.

"I can't imagine someone would come in and shoot at the federation," Sidell said, describing the Jewish Federation as a United Way-like welfare group that assists many, including the homeless.

Sidell said she hasn't heard anything about recent threats. She said the federation started raising money last week to send to Israel to assist in efforts there.