The burning question is 'why?'
Why did 28-year-old Kyle Huff shoot and kill six people at the rental house at 2112 East Republican Street before taking his own life in the first hours of daylight on March 25?
A few days after the tragedy, at a public gathering at the Miller Community Center, Seattle Assistant Police Chief Clark Kimmerer said we may never know. While no doubt true on the most literal level, Kimmerer, along with Chief Gil Kerlikowske, returned to the same location to formally release a detailed report on the shooting. The 31-page document does not - cannot - answer every question relating to Huff's actions or motives. But it does shed a great deal of light on the subject.
The report was prepared by a team led by Dr. James Alan Fox, a professor of criminal justice at Northeastern University and the author of numerous books relating to murder and serial killers. Fox appeared at Miller on Monday, July 17, to discuss his findings and answer questions from a large, if understandably subdued crowd.
A picture of Huff certainly emerges from the report, a picture not necessarily at odds with what people have imagined about him or inferred based on a suicide note he wrote to his twin brother that was made public shortly after its discovery. Huff is described as a young man with virtually no direction in his life and no real support system, a man who hated living in Seattle but couldn't or wouldn't leave the city and return to his native Montana.
Two of many notable points:
* The shooting was the result of considerable planning.
* There was no evidence of a simple explanation for his behavior.
* Without question, there were no clear warning signs that could have been observed, even by his twin brother.
Huff spent his days alone, depressed and isolated, and he funneled his depression, the report said, into an "obsession with the perceived dangers associated with the rave community and rave culture."
"The group [ravers] was clearly targeted," said Fox. "It was not a sudden explosion. The particular victims were random but Huff targeted and stalked the rave community."
Huff had previously been drawn to the rave community, possibly as a way to meet people, possibly in an effort to share a passion for music, probably because the rave community's ethos is to accept everyone. But he didn't fit in, either in age, style of dress or social manner. If he felt rejected, such rejection went deep.
"What happens if you don't fit into a group that accepts everyone?" said Fox. "He became more and more isolated and obsessed about the rave community being evil. Raves became something to blame."
Fox said that while there were certainly warning signs of depression, signs that stand out more sharply in hindsight, they were signs that indicated things weren't going well in his life and not indications that a shooting spree was his depression's logical conclusion.
"The signs were subtle. A deepening withdrawal. [His brother] Kane saw the change. But not the potential for mass murder. He was in trouble, but these were not signs that he was going on a murderous rampage," said Fox.
In short, there is no simple answer.
"The road to mass murder is very complex," said Fox. "There is a lot we know now. There is a lot we believe and a lot we hypothesize."
Once again it became clear that as bad as Huff's rampage was, it could have been far worse. The incredibly prompt response by Officer Steve Leonard, who had heard the gunfire, confronted Huff alone and witnessed Huff's immediate suicide, probably saved numerous lives, especially considering the vast amount of ammunition Huff still had at his disposal. The report also points out that Huff might well have claimed more victims even before Leonard's arrival. As the report states:
"The gunman then proceeded down the basement stairs, although he did not fire his weapons. He could have easily located others.... It was as if he had lost interest in shooting anymore, or it was just too much effort."
There were a few quiet tears in the room. Many questions were asked, questions about how Huff was able to acquire and conceal so many weapons, questions about how his identical twin brother could have been so in the dark about Huff's state of depression and his violent plans, questions about why, if Huff was so unhappy, did he stay in Seattle.
Perhaps the mother of one of the victims put it best.
"Guns aren't to blame," she said in a low, calm voice. "White males aren't to blame. Parents aren't to blame. He is to blame."
The panel report on the March 25 Capitol Hill shooting will be available on-line, though the link had not been created as this paper went to press. But the Police Department's Web site is www.cityofseattle.net/police/ and the link should be available shortly if it isn't already there.
Around Here is a column by the editor of the Capitol Hill Times. Reach Doug Schwartz at editor@ capitolhilltimes.com or 461-1308.