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Third violent incident closes parkway on Washington’s Capitol Campus

Police tape blocks access to Deschutes Parkway on the edge of Washington's Capitol Campus on Wednesday, October 27. The Washington State Patrol was investigating a midday shooting that sent one man to the hospital. It was the third violent crime in the same area in the month of October.
Austin Jenkins
NW News Network
Police tape blocks access to Deschutes Parkway on the edge of Washington's Capitol Campus on Wednesday, October 27. The Washington State Patrol was investigating a midday shooting that sent one man to the hospital. It was the third violent crime in the same area in the month of October.

For the third time this month, Deschutes Parkway, which curves past Capitol Lake along the edge of Washington’s Capitol Campus, has been closed due to a violent crime.

On Wednesday afternoon, Washington State Patrol troopers blocked off a nearly mile-long section of the wide boulevard for a few hours following a midday shooting that sent a 23-year-old man to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

According to the patrol, the man was shot after an altercation with another man who fled the scene in a vehicle. The suspect was later arrested in Grays Harbor County.

The shooting is just the latest violent incident this month to close a portion of Deschutes Parkway across from a large, unsanctioned homeless encampment.

In the first incident, on October 5, a 47-year-old man was found dead in a sleeping bag under a city-owned bridge adjacent to Deschutes Parkway, according to reporting by The Olympian. An autopsy revealed the victim had sustained head and face trauma. A 24-year-old man was later arrested and jailed on suspicion of second-degree murder in the case.

Then, on October 15, the same stretch of Deschutes Parkway was again closed following an early morning shooting that sent a 60-year-old man to the hospital with multiple gunshot wounds to the leg, according to The Olympian.

In the latest incident, the victim and suspect reportedly knew each other. According to an affidavit of probable cause from the prosecutor's office, the victim allegedly swung a skateboard at the suspect, possibly striking him in the back of the head. The suspect responded by firing one shot at the victim striking him in the groin area.

The suspect, age 36, then allegedly held another man at gunpoint as they fled the scene. That victim told police the suspect told him he had also committed the earlier shooting on Deschutes Parkway. The Washington State Patrol said it has not yet found evidence to connect the two shootings.

The Northwest News Network is not naming the suspect because he hasn't been formally charged. He faces charges of assault, kidnapping and unlawful possession of a firearm.

The man has two previous felony convictions and was recently arrested for domestic violence, malicious mischief and illegal possession of a gun, according to the probable cause statement.

He's also known to the Thurston County Narcotics Taskforce which was able to locate the man at an apartment complex in the Olympia area the day after the shooting. When he left the complex in a vehicle, detectives followed. But when police tried to stop him, the man allegedly took off at a high rate of speed. He was later arrested in McCleary, Washington in Grays Harbor County after his car broke down.

It wasn’t immediately clear if the victim in Wednesday’s shooting had any connection to the nearby encampment. However, the probable cause statement said the suspect had a tent there.

After his arrest, the suspect told detectives that he shot the victim in self-defense, according to the prosecutor's declaration.

Separately, the State Patrol continues to investigate a murder that happened in November 2019 along Deschutes Parkway. In that case, shots were fired and the victim was found lying face down next to the lake. Surveillance video showed a person with a backpack running away from the area where the shooting happened. No arrests have been made in that case.

Deschutes Parkway is a popular area for runners, bikers and dog walkers. A gravel and paved path hugs the shoreline of Capitol Lake. The lakefront property belongs to the state and is considered part of the Capitol Campus.

The sprawling homeless encampment, with its blue tarps and tents, sits across the road and is on private and railroad-owned property within the jurisdiction of the city of Olympia, according to the Washington Department of Enterprise Services (DES).

Because of the side-by-side jurisdictional boundaries in the area, the Olympia Police Department investigated the October 5 murder, while the State Patrol took charge of investigating the October 15 shooting, as well as Wednesday’s shooting.

In addition to the recent violence, a spokesperson for DES said the agency has been dealing with frequent graffiti and the daily dumping of trash along Deschutes Parkway and at nearby Marathon Park.

In recent weeks the homeless encampment along Deschutes Parkway has also been the source of complaints from nearby residents. One homeowner told KING 5 News that he discovered water and electricity from his house were being siphoned down to the camp.

A city of Olympia spokesperson told KING TV that the city was providing porta potties and trash clean-up to the encampment, as well as regularly patrolling the area.

Previously, Deschutes Parkway was also thesite of extensive RV camping. However, the state ended that practice in May when it banned overnight parking along paved areas of the roadway.

On Wednesday, yellow police tape blocked the path of both residents of the encampment and walkers and joggers along Capitol Lake.

“We want people to feel safe while they’re walking around down here,” said State Patrol Sgt. Darren Wright. “We’ll continue to monitor what we can do to make it safer for everybody.”

This story has been updated.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."