U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan announced this morning that her office will push to prosecute more defendants accused of committing gun crimes. Defendants prosecuted in federal court face longer potential sentences that those prosecuted in state courts, like King County Superior Court.
“We are here today to send a clear message: if you use a gun in a crime, you will do more time. You will do federal time,” said Durkan. “We will continue to work with organizations, the community and local law enforcement to address ways to prevent these crimes. We cannot prosecute our way out of this problem. But we will prosecute those who are the problem.”
The announcement was made during a news conference in which the speakers announced efforts to get tough on crimes involving firearms. The speakers included Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg, Deputy Police Chief Nick Metz and Kelvin Crenshaw, special agent in charge of the Seattle office of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Satterberg noted that state penalties for felons convicted of possessing a firearm are too lenient.
Federal penalties include up to 10 years for being a felon with a gun, a five-year mandatory minimum for carrying a gun to a drug deal, and a 15-year mandatory minimum federal prison sentence for defendants with three prior violent felonies or drug crimes. In addition to significant prison time, officials said federal prosecution results in more rigorous supervision by federal probation officers when felons are released.
“The gun violence that has happened in our community is unacceptable,” Metz said. He noted that since Jan. 1, police have recovered 361 guns. During the same period, 81 guns have been stolen in Seattle, he said.
This morning’s announcement comes as the city has been rocked by a spike in homicides, most from gun violence. So far this year, there have been 21 homicides in Seattle, one more than all of last year. Of the 21 homicides, 19 have been the result of gunfire.
On May 30, Ian Stawicki, a mentally ill 40-year-old opened fire on patrons of Cafe Racer in Seattle’s University District, killing four of them: Joe Albanese, Drew Keriakedes, Kimberly Layfield and Donald Largen. A fifth person, Leonard Meuse, who was also shot, is recovering.
About a half-hour later, Stawicki shot and killed Gloria Leonidas as he carjacked her Mercedes-Benz SUV in a parking lot near downtown. He later shot himself in the head on a West Seattle sidewalk as police moved in to arrest him.
Two of the homicide victims this year were the unintended targets of gunfire, police said. On May 24, Justin Ferrari was fatally shot while driving through the Central District. On April 22, Nicole Westbrook, was hit by a stray bullet April 22 while walking home in Pioneer Square.
Over Memorial Day weekend, a bystander was shot in the calf near Seattle Center and members of an Asian street gang sprayed four houses with more than 60 bullets in a series of drive-by shootings in the Rainier Valley.
A community meeting with McGinn and police Chief John Diaz and others to discuss the recent gun violence is being held tonight at Town Hall Seattle.
“What’s happening in Seattle unfortunately is mirroring what’s happening in other parts of the country,” Diaz said during a recent round-table discussion with the Seattle City Council’s Public Safety Committee.
Diaz said the increasing availability of guns — and people’s willingness to use them to settle disputes — is a troubling trend police in major cities are all grappling with.