Seattle Murders Shock 'Rave' Community
SEATTLE - The partygoers didn't know Aaron Kyle Huff, and don't know who invited him to their after-party. In the culture of raves, all-night dance parties where they say young people can feel welcomed regardless of looks or background, such questions normally aren't important.
That trust was shattered Saturday morning, when Huff opened fire in a house full of ravers dressed like zombies in dark clothing and pale makeup, killing six of them and injuring two.
The 28-year-old man from Montana, who fired a 12-gauge pistol-grip shotgun and wore bandoliers of shotgun shells, killed himself when confronted by a police officer outside the home.
Now ravers are in shock after being struck by the apparently random act of violence.
"We're probably the only community in society that would have welcomed somebody so easily," said Travis Webb, an area rave promoter who attended a "zombie rave" that preceded the party where Huff opened fire.
Raves - parties that attract young people to dance to thumping, bass-laden electronic music - often are themed events where people dress up in Halloween-like outfits and paint their faces. Friday night's rave, dubbed "Better Off Undead," drew about 500 people, according to organizers.
Early Saturday, some made their way to a house party already underway in a nearby residential neighborhood. Someone invited Huff, police said.
While friends of the victims said they didn't know who invited the suspect, they said the invite wasn't unusual.
"I've invited people to after-parties many times," said 28-year-old Roger Platt, who attended the rave and left the after-party at the house shortly before the shooting.
Police said the gunman left the house party and returned around 7 a.m. to commit one of the biggest mass killings in city history.
Police spokesman Sean Whitcomb said Sunday that police found an assault rifle, multiple "banana clips" carrying 30 bullets each, a machete and several hundred more rounds of ammunition.
Whitcomb said the gunman was "extremely dangerous" and it was fortunate there weren't more victims.
Four young men and two young women were killed and two people were hospitalized in serious condition, officials said.
Some who knew Huff could not believe he was a suspect.
"This would have been so far out of character," said Jim Pickett, the assistant manager of the apartment complex where he said Huff lived with his twin brother.
Seattle police had not released Huff's identity Sunday, but Montana's Flathead County sheriff's Lt. Dave Leib said that after talking with authorities there he informed Huff's mother Sunday afternoon that her son was dead.
Phone messages left at Huff's Seattle apartment and the Huff family home in Whitefish, Mont., were not immediately returned.
Leib said Huff, who went by the name Kyle, was charged with felony criminal mischief in 2000 after shooting a statue of a moose with a shotgun at an art exhibit in Whitefish.
Whitcomb confirmed that a search warrant was served Saturday evening on the block where the twins' apartment is located. One person was questioned, but no one was arrested, he said.
Whitcomb said police were still working on a motive.
Authorities have not released the victim's identities, but relatives and friends of three victims, Jason Travers, 32, Jeremy Martin, 26, and Christopher Williamson, 21, confirmed that they were among the dead. Several ravers gathered at a makeshift memorial near the crime scene Sunday morning.
Webb said he and other ravers are filled with fear that police or city officials might use the shooting as an excuse to shut down the parties. Police said alcohol and marijuana were found at the murder scene, but they had not linked them to the crime.
"It's almost a double punishment," Webb said. "You lose six people that are so close, and then you might lose the community that brought you all together in the first place."
Many ravers say that although alcohol is not usually served, drugs are a part of the scene.
"The drugs are unreal," said Chris Meyer, 22, who said he stopped going because of the drugs. "The more and more I went, it was just people sitting around on the floor."
Meyer said partygoers' favorite drug is ecstasy, or MDMA, which makes people feel tipsy, trusting, loving and warm toward others.
Webb, who attended only the larger party, acknowledges that some kids use drugs but said he's seen a decline in drug use over the last year.
He said he's working with other Seattle rave promoters to organize a free, daytime memorial rave, "so people can see that we're not a bunch of kids hiding in the basement."