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LIFE AND ARTS C1
A HEARST NEWSPAPER
KING, PIERCE, SNOHOMISH, ISLAND, KITSAP & THURSTON COUNTIES | ELSEWHERE 75¢
Animated ‘Beowulf’ is all beefcake and bloodshed
LIFE AND ARTS C1
Lake Quinault is a place to marvel and meditate
Brockman’s big game sends UW to New York
T H U R S D AY, N O V E M B E R 1 5 , 2 0 0 7
Guns seized in few abuse cases
Efforts to protect domestic violence victims lag
BY LEVI PULKKINEN
On Feb. 20, a SeaTac Municipal Court judge signed a no-contact order barring Karl Vance from seeing his wife. The order wasn’t unusual, just one of scores of no-contact orders filed every
year in King County. It told Vance, who had been charged with misdemeanor domestic violence assault, how to keep on the right side of the law – stay at least 500 feet away from his wife of two years, don’t call or stop by places she frequented. And Vance was to turn in his guns for
safekeeping. Vance turned over an air pistol. Two months later, prosecutors say, Vance used a more formidable weapon, a .357-caliber revolver, to gun down his estranged wife on a Des Moines street. At 37, Monique Vance died in a doorway begging neighbors for help;
Karl Vance waits in the King County Jail facing first-degree murder and assault charges. Because of federal laws enacted in the early 1990s and the state laws that followed, Vance should have lost his guns. The same laws, which are largely ignored by law enforcement around the country, form the legal backbone for gun-seizure programs and protocols in
Seattle and King County. In the past four years, the city and county were among the few jurisdictions in the nation to start programs aimed at enforcing domestic violence gun-seizure laws. But documents obtained by the Seattle P-I show that, despite the muchlauded initiatives, guns are seized in a small fraction of domestic violence
SEE GUNS, A10
Name that neighborhood
DOWNTOWN, UPTOWN, NOW MIDTOWN: WHAT’S NEXT?
Soldier’s heroism under fire in Iraq honored
Oak Harbor man receives 2nd-highest U.S. military award
BY CAROL SMITH
MERYL SCHENKER / P-I
Musician Marco UnderSong calls the area around Fifth Avenue and Virginia Street the “Under the Rail” neighborhood, after a defunct club. Condo marketers have recently branded the area – roughly defined by Denny Way, Westlake Avenue North, Battery Street and Fourth Avenue – as “Midtown” Seattle.
Condo blogs, brochures confuse and amuse as sections of Seattle inherit new monikers
BY JENNIFER LANGSTON
Ian Cohen’s advertising agency recently moved to Fifth Avenue – the heart of what condo marketers and breathless real estate blogs call “Midtown” Seattle. Micro-neighborhood names have proliferated as residents colonize new parts of downtown and developers strive to set their projects apart.
There’s the “Park District” near Olympic Sculpture Park, South Lake Union’s “Gateway District” anchored by Whole Foods, and the “West Edge” campaign still trundling along after six years. Along with delivery drivers and parking police in the new Midtown – bounded roughly by Fourth and Westlake avenues, Battery Street and Denny Way – Cohen had never heard of it. Somehow, he decided, the name manages to be both pretentious and unoriginal. “I have to call B.S. because it sounds like we’re trying to throw New York into it,” said Cohen, cofounder of Wexley School for Girls, who knows how to make a lasting impression. The ad agency’s red reception area has sewing machines and Chinese silk next to the phones – a joke about small creative companies being sweatshops. The all-white conference room, with a python curled on a grand piano, looks as if it belongs in a demented finishing school. “We’re in Wexleytown right
SEE NAMES, A9
Second Lt. Bryan Jackson was eight months into his first tour of duty in Iraq and out on patrol in Anbar Province in September 2006 when the Humvee he was towing behind a Bradley Fighting Vehicle got stuck in the mud. It was a mundane mishap, but it made Jackson and his crew nervous. Not only did they fear the Humvee would roll over, but they also knew the stall made them a naked target for insurgent fire. Just a month earlier, a comINSIDE rade had been seriIRAQ WAR: The ously wounded at the House passed a same spot near the war funding bill town of Hit. What happened that would require next would earn the president to Jackson, now a first pull out troops. A6 lieutenant, the Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism in action – making him only the seventh soldier since the Vietnam War to receive the nation’s secondhighest military honor. Jackson, a West Point graduate, is from Oak Harbor where his father, now based in Washington, D.C., commanded a Navy P3 Orion squadron on Whidbey Island. On Sept. 27, 2006, Jackson and his crew climbed down and began working quickly to try to free the mired Humvee. In almost the same instant, Jackson
SEE HERO, A10
WHAT’S IN A NAME?
FREMONT: This neighborhood got its name from land developers, based on their hometown in Fremont, Neb. CAPITOL HILL: A turn-of-the-century developer persuaded a state legislator to introduce a bill to move the state capital there. SODO: Seattle Weekly Editor Rose Pike suggested the name – for SOuth of the KingDOme, which is now gone. WEST EDGE: Six years ago, a campaign began to recast the neighborhood north of Pioneer Square as “West Edge,” but the name still draws confused looks.
Second Lt. Bryan Jackson rushed to the aid of two wounded soldiers while he was shot three times.
TODAY’S WEATHER Lingering rain tapering off. High 54. Low 46. B8 Comics Crosswords Editorial Horoscope Lottery Obituaries Television C4,5 C4,5 B6,7 C2 B2 B4 C6
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© 2007 SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER
Dalai Lama’s Seattle visit
The Dalai Lama is coming to Seattle in April to take part in four days of discussions on raising children to be happy, kind adults, the event organizer, Seeds of Compassion, said Wednesday. B1
A-Rod, Yanks are talking
Escorted by his wife – and cutting out his agent – Alex Rodriguez met with Yankees executives Hal and Hank Steinbrenner on Wednesday to tell them that he wants to stay in pinstripes. D2
Fluid field in ’08 campaign
Close races could make Iowa and New Hampshire pivotal in deciding which Republican and Democrat is nominated for president. Adding to the uncertainty: lots of undecided voters. A2
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER ❘ THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 15, 2007
GUNS: ‘More challenging than a lot of us initially thought’
cases. City authorities took in guns in 33 cases during 2006, a year when 1,771 misdemeanor domestic violence cases were prosecuted, according to the Seattle City Attorney’s Office. The same year, King County reported that deputies recovered guns from 93 individuals through a surrender program out of the 1,418 reports of domestic violence. While county and city authorities defend their programs as successes, they say it’s hard to know which abusers possess firearms or how many guns are slipping by. “It sounds like an easy thing – just take the guns away from batterers. But in reality it’s much more complicated,” said Merril Cousin, director of the King County Coalition Against Domestic Violence. “It’s ended up being a lot more challenging than a lot of us initially thought.” Since 1993, anyone convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence offense has been barred by federal law from possessing a gun, a restriction otherwise reserved for felons. The restriction also applies to those such as Vance who are the subject of protection orders, often issued in the run-up to trial. Guns taken by police are returned if charges or the protection order are dropped. An accounting by the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence shows that guns were used in 56 percent of the domestic violence slayings during the past decade. The laws were designed to help law enforcement make it a little tougher for accused or convicted abusers to access firearms. The gun surrender laws, some of which were part of the federal Brady Bill package in 1993, didn’t come with new money. Officers weren’t given training and, some experts in the field say, law enforcement agencies weren’t interested in taking guns away from abusers. In March 2003, the King County Sheriff’s Office and county district courts launched a gun surrender program. It was one of the first of its kind in the country and remains one of few. The city of Seattle followed suit two years later, creating a similar system by which officers could remove guns at a domestic violence crime scene and offenders could turn in their guns as ordered by the court. Procedure, Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske said, is for officers, during any domestic violence response, to ask the victim and the accused whether there are guns in the home. They will collect the weapons as evidence if they were used in a crime or ask that the owner surrender the weapon voluntarily. To Ken Conder, a retired Seattle police lieutenant who headed up the department’s domestic violence unit, the numbers show that many in the department aren’t following that procedure all the way through. “If that was happening – if officers were asking if there are weapons in the houses, if officers were confiscating those weapons – there would be a whole lot more firearms being confiscated,” said Conder, a former police academy instructor and 25-year veteran of the Seattle force. “There’s progress, but that’s a pretty small” gain, he added. Shortly after retiring in 2001, Conder was hired by the Seattle Municipal Court to figure out why the domestic violence gun laws weren’t being enforced. He
Laws restricting gun ownership among people convicted or accused of domestic violence have been on the books for 14 years. But a P-I review found that authorities have gathered guns from only a small fraction of domestic violence suspects. CASES
Domestic violence cases
Seattle, 2006 King County, 2006 King County, since 2003
NUMBER WHERE OF GUNS GUNS WERE RECOVERED RECOVERED
4,335 1,418 5,814
33 81 367
98 206 1,026
Who loses their guns
◗ Anyone the subject of a nocontact order after being charged with a domestic violence offense. ◗ Anyone convicted of a domestic violence offense, including misdemeanors.
Sources: City of Seattle, the King County Sheriff's Office, the Washington Association of Sheriff's and Police Chiefs.
found that while departments were going after guns used in crime, officers statewide were unwilling to remove firearms found in the home. “I felt that there was a certain amount of reluctance to enforce the law,” he said. “I couldn’t understand it then, and don’t even to this day.” Whatever their other merits, Conder said, the city and county programs have raised awareness on the issue. That’s more than most jurisdictions have done. Kerlikowske said he couldn’t speculate on how often officers are missing guns that could be confiscated at the scene. What’s clear, he said, is that about a third of the 272 guns secured by Seattle police through the program would otherwise still be on the street. “I don’t think anybody went into this saying ‘Gee, we have a set number,’ ” Kerlikowske said. “Every additional gun taken off the street is one less gun that was involved in a domestic violence situation.”
When asked about the county program by e-mail Sheriff’s Office spokesman John Urquhart suggested several factors could account for the gap between the number of domestic violence complaints and guns seized. For example, witnesses and victims could be underreporting gun ownership. But, Urquhart said, gun owners could be less likely to commit domestic violence crimes, or the socioeconomics of King County could mean gun ownership is just less common. Nationally, such programs are the exception rather than the rule, said Emily Sack, a professor of criminal law at Roger Williams University in Rhode Island who’s written extensively on gun seizure programs. Sack said some jurisdictions have gone further than Seattle or King County. In New Jersey, for instance, state law requires that a search warrant be issued with each no-contact order, clearing the way for police to search for weapons in the homes of those
accused of domestic violence. Other states have either adopted laws less broad than the federal statute – usually only allowing for gun surrender if the firearm was used in a crime – or failed to pass any legislation. “The reality is that if you want to deal with domestic violence, you have to deal with the gun issue,” Sack said. “Having access to a weapon is a huge risk factor.” Prosecutors asking for a gun surrender order have to rely on either victims’ statements that there’s a gun in the home or other evidence, such as a concealed weapons permit. Even when an order is issued, there’s little to stop perpetrators from satisfying the order by simply signing an affidavit saying they don’t have a gun or have given it to a friend. Ultimately, SeaTac City Attorney Mary Mirante Bartolo said, fulfillment of the gun surrender orders comes down to a matter of trust between the court and the accused. Mirante Bartolo said her office and others file the orders to give victims of domestic violence the maximum amount of protection possible. But she said authorities ultimately are asked to take a defendant’s word that he or she no longer has a firearm. “There’s no way you could ever know if they do comply,” Mirante Bartolo said. “In fact, they could have complied at that date and time, then bought a gun on the street for $50.” Seattle City Attorney Tom Carr, whose office along with police and others helped create the city gun surrender program, said weak gun registration laws have hindered efforts by police and his office to enforce surrender orders. Lawmakers, Carr said, have been reluctant to create such
laws in part because of pressure from gun-rights groups. “When you get into gun issues, it gets very difficult to get things done,” Carr said. “I would ban handguns in the city of Seattle if I could. We’re in an urban environment. They provide no good use. But the state prevents that, and I don’t know why.” While both said one killing is too many, Kerlikowske and Carr each emphasized that Seattle sees few domestic violence killings each year. Though 2007 has been particularly rough – six people have been killed in domestic violence situations – the city usually sees two or three such slayings a year. But firearms aren’t just used to kill, said Cousin, of the county domestic violence coalition. She said she’s heard from women whose partners played Russian roulette with them or shot their pets. Others she knows were sexually assaulted with a gun. In relationships built on control, where the threat of physical violence forms the foundation, guns can play a subtler role. Cousin said some victims have told her their partners would glance toward the shotgun closet to send home the message. Cousin said she gets a variety of reactions from domestic violence survivors when she tells them about the gun seizure initiatives. A few, she said, tell her their partners are more scared of losing their guns than going to jail. “The other women,” Cousin said, “they kind of laugh at me and say ‘If he wants to get a gun, he can walk out the door and obtain one right now.’ ”
P-I reporter Levi Pulkkinen can be reached at 206-448-8348 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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