A strapping 6-foot-5 figure, Kyle Huff arrived around 4 a.m. at the Capitol Hill house where the party was just beginning. It would end abruptly in an explosion of gunfire three hours later Saturday, March 25, after Huff went to his pickup and armed himself with a 12-gauge shotgun used in an earlier crime, a handgun, and rounds of ammo in belts and stuffed in his pockets. He began pulling the trigger the moment he walked back up to the house, hitting two people who were sitting outside, enjoying the new day. "There's plenty for everyone!" he shouted, or words to that effect, as he entered the rental home and began spraying several dozen strangers with his shotgun. Within minutes, after Huff had made himself the final victim — shooting himself in the face before quick-arriving patrol officer Steve Leonard could kill him — seven were dead or dying on the floor and outside the house on East Republican Street, including girls 14 and 15 years old.
Memorials and Benefits
Fri., March 31
St. James Cathedral: At 6:30 p.m., the church will host a non-denominational prayer service that will include a candlelight vigil, silent reflection, and various readings. 804 Ninth Ave., 206-622-3559.
Sat., April 1
Tuttolini's: A lineup of six local DJs will perform at this benefit for the 21+ crowd at the Renton bar. There is no cover, but there is a secure donation box, and all proceeds will go to families of the victims. 214 Williams Ave. S. (Renton), 425-255-9246.
Capitol Hill Massacre
An Outcast Among Outcasts
Was Kyle Huff stalking Seattle's rave scene?
Lessons of a predator. Mossback, by Knute Berger
Age range: 14 to 32.
'There's Plenty for Everyone!'
He was prepared to do "homicidal mayhem," police say. No one knows why.
The killer in a nutshell.
Photos from the "Better Off Undead" rave party Friday, March 24.
"Better Off Undead" rave information for ticket buyers.
Victim Justin "Sushi" Schwartz's MySpace.com page.
Victim Christopher Williamson's MySpace.com page.
Drifting away with the echo and smoke of gunfire may have been any conclusive answers to why, police fear. Huff, the enigmatic shooter, 28, a wanna-be drummer who had drifted among pizza-parlor jobs, who was polite to a fault with elders, who had little opportunity on his horizon, and who had amassed an impressive arsenal of legal weapons, may have taken any real answers to his grave. For sure, the second-largest mass murder in Seattle history was not an impulsive act. "He came heavily armed," Deputy Police Chief Clark Kimerer said Monday at police headquarters, where Huff's arsenal was on display. "He was purely intent on doing homicidal mayhem. ... He had designs to do great harm to a lot of innocent people."
The King County Medical Examiner's Office officially identified the victims as Jeremy Martin, 26; Melissa Moore, 14; Justin "Sushi" Schwartz, 22; Suzanne Thorne, 15; Jason Travers, 32; and Christopher Williamson, 21.
Sorting out the evidence this week, police did not seem hopeful about determining the motive and mind-set of Huff, one of twin brothers from Whitefish, Mont., who lived a life mostly unnoticed except to neighbors and family. Twin brother Kane Huff, who later was arrested and questioned when he arrived to find police searching their apartment, was unaware of the shooting, and "there was no indication he had any knowledge of this," Kimerer said. He was questioned and released.
Kyle Huff had attended a rave dance party Friday night, March 24, on Capitol Hill. He was "edgy but not unfriendly" at the rave, witnesses told police. At the after-party in the home on the other side of the hill, Huff was just another of the visitors who shared some drinks and dope and talked about music and life, police say. "Self-effacing" is the way some witnesses remembered him before he quietly sauntered out and suddenly returned Rambo-like to kill almost a quarter of them. Police are awaiting toxicology and autopsy results, but even then the murder mosaic of Kyle Huff (or Aaron Kyle Huff, depending on which public records you consult) will lack all the pieces.
"It's all very puzzling," says Jim Pickett, an assistant manager at the North Seattle apartment house where Huff and his brother lived. The apartment building is in the 12300 block of Roosevelt Way Northeast, in a quiet, affordable neighborhood of North Seattle — far from the scene of the shootings on trendy, active Capitol Hill. "They were from Montana and did a little hunting. I mean, they were just nice kids, very polite, always 'yes sir, no sir, can I help you' — that type of thing. That's not to say that they aren't going to get in trouble, but this one just doesn't add up to me."
Jeff Green, a police dispatcher in Whitefish, Mont., says the only run-in Kyle Huff had with police was a vandalism incident involving a shotgun in 2000 — the same shotgun used in the Seattle killings. Charged with felony mischief for shooting a Fiberglas sculpture of a moose, Huff pleaded the crime down to a misdemeanor and was given back his gun, which he later packed up and brought to Seattle. "There was nothing before or after that, though they moved away a few years back," Green said. The men's mother recently moved from Whitefish, a popular skiing and hunting area, to another location in Flathead County, Green said. "It sounds like a senseless thing," he added.
What is known about the 7 a.m. shootings is indeed confounding. Once Huff armed himself at his truck, he also grabbed a can of spray paint. Leaving behind a machete, a semiautomatic rifle, and several hundred more rounds of shotgun and handgun ammo, including a banana clip, Huff stopped en route during the short jaunt back to the home in the 2100 block of East Republican Street, spray painting the word "Now" at several locations on the sidewalk and then on the steps to the home. As he walked up, he opened fire at the two victims sitting outside. He continued inside, shooting at whoever was unfortunate to fall within his sights. He fired repeatedly, apparently reloading as he moved through the downstairs and then upstairs. More than two dozen people were inside. Amid panic and screaming, some ran out doors, others dived out windows. Others hid.
Huff's arsenal included, from top, a Bushmaster semiautomatic assault rifle, a pistol-grip shotgun, a baseball bat, a machete, and some 300 rounds of ammunition.
Huff then came back out the front door, either in pursuit of other victims or to leave. Officer Leonard, on patrol nearby, heard the shots and took cover outside the home as Huff emerged into the daylight. Leonard shouted "Drop your—" but Huff, drawing the 12-gauge pistol-stock shotgun to his face, pulled the trigger one last time. He died instantly, the seventh fatality. Two people were wounded and were treated at Harborview Medical Center. Said Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske: "As everyone knows, a pistol-grip shotgun is designed certainly not for hunting purposes but for hunting people. These appeared to be almost execution-style shootings. He expended a large number of rounds inside that house."
Huff had been invited to the party by some of the people he met at the rave on 12th Avenue near Pine Street at the Capitol Hill Arts Center, a private art and performance space that was rented for the evening. The "Better Off Undead" dance and party offered admission discounts to those who dressed as zombies or ghouls. The mostly young crowd of several hundred was described as well behaved, and Huff was just another face in the crowd. At the after-party, says Kerlikowske, "He made no threatening gestures, there was no argument, no fights. In fact he was described as quiet and humble."
When police searched the brothers' third-floor, two-bedroom apartment Saturday night, witnesses say, Kane Huff was taken away in handcuffs. The brothers lived at the complex for at least four years. One was attending school and the other worked at a pizza joint, Pickett says. He provided SWAT officers with an entry key and a master key to the apartment. "They were gonna bust down the doors," Pickett said. "But from what I know about the brothers, I would have had no fear just knocking on the door and asking for them." Inside, the SWAT unit confiscated more weapons.