Avoid This Man Downtown

Paul Hamilton has witnessed a few too many deaths for comfort.

About 20 minutes after Michael Yohannes was shot and killed on the corner of Second Avenue and Pike Street a week ago Tuesday afternoon, in what may have been a gang-related incident, eyewitness Paul Hamilton was standing nearby looking more annoyed than shocked. Turns out that Yohannes wasn't the first person Hamilton has seen get killed downtown—it was, he says, the sixth. The first deaths that Hamilton, a 40-year-old housing agent at Quick Switch Rentals, says he witnessed involved three people in 1986. He was standing between Pike and Union Streets when a car came crashing out of an upper story of a parking garage, landing on another man below. The crash apparently killed the driver, who had just suffered a heart attack, causing him to accelerate out of the building. It also killed his wife, who was riding shotgun. "All of a sudden this car comes though the wall," Hamilton recalled. "It decapitated the man it landed on. It was the first time I'd ever seen a head roll down the street." The next death, he says, was in 1999: He and his wife were at Westlake Center when they saw two men arguing. One pulled out a gun and shot the other several times. "It just dropped him to the ground, dead," he says. The fifth fatality occurred, he says, just two years ago while he was waiting for a bus home. He says that all of a sudden a man pushed a woman in front of a bus, killing her instantly. "There was a big commotion and you could hear the woman's head get crushed," he says. "It was terrible." After the latest death he witnessed on Tuesday, Hamilton says it's starting to "get annoying." "I had never really thought about it before, but after this last time, the bodies started piling up in my head," he says. Luckily Hamilton seems to have a strong stomach. He says that immediately after last week's shooting, "my wife [and I] just looked at each other, 'cause we were supposed to be getting some dinner, and said 'Where are we gonna eat now?'" All the commotion and blocked-off streets limited their options: "We had to settle for Subway."

 
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