Aug. 28—One person was killed and three others were injured in a shooting early Saturday at Franklin Park near NorthTown Mall in Spokane, the second such incident at a city park since Thursday.
Spokane police received multiple 911 calls around 3:15 a.m. reporting the shooting in the parking lot near the playground at the south end of the park, according to a Spokane police news release.
Officers found four people with gunshot wounds and several other people in the area of the park across from Division Street and northwest of the mall, police said.
Lt. Terry Preuninger said two of the four victims were taken to the hospital by private vehicle, one was taken by ambulance and one died at the scene. The three injured victims were seriously injured, he said.
“When the officers first got there, it was pretty chaotic,” Preuninger said.
Initial reports indicated the shooting stemmed from an argument, officers said. Preuninger said police had no suspect information to release and were investigating.
Red and yellow crime scene tape cordoned off the playground, parking lot and a section of Queen Avenue later Saturday morning. Queen from Division to about Calispel Street, and some side streets in the area, were closed at least through Saturday afternoon.
On Saturday, neighbors near Franklin Park said the park is safe and popular.
People use the vast park for walking, sports, picnics and even weddings, they said.
“I’m very shocked, because this is a very active park for families and kids, and I just hope it doesn’t make families think twice about bringing their kids to the park,” Brian Kalning said.
It was the second mass shooting at a Spokane park this week.
On Thursday, police said three teenagers and a 40-year-old man were shot early in the morning at Dutch Jakes Park in West Central.
Pruninger said there is no indication that the Dutchman Jakes Park shooting is related to the Franklin Park shooting, although no suspect has been identified in either incident.
Spokane Police Chief Craig Meidl said the victims and witnesses in both shootings at the park were uncooperative, which is becoming a trend.
Meanwhile, early in the morning on June 29, police responded to the Dwight Merkel Sports Complex in northwest Spokane after receiving reports of a large fight leading to shots fired.
Two teenagers suffered non-life threatening injuries. Authorities in Arkansas arrested 25-year-old Jordan D. Genzlinger on suspicion of two counts of first-degree assault in connection with the shooting. Genzlinger was still in the Spokane County Jail Saturday on the two charges.
Meidl said large groups often gather in the middle of the night in places like parks and parking lots. Then fights ensue, sometimes fueled by alcohol, and quickly escalate into shootings, he said.
“I don’t think it’s specific to parks,” Meidl said of the shootings. “It just happens to be the location where they decide to congregate.”
Meidl said officers conduct a “loitering check” at a “hot spot” in the park when they don’t respond to calls. He said officers were looking for people in parks that closed for the night.
But Meidl said officers often struggle to find time for those checks.
Spokane Parks and Recreation Director Garrett Jones said all city parks close at 10 p.m., except for Riverfront Park, which closes at midnight.
Jones called the two recent shootings at the park “unfortunate” and said his department will work with police to see if anything can be done to prevent such incidents.
He said adding lighting or trimming trees to improve visibility from the street could prevent crime in the parks.
The city completed major renovations to Dutch Jake’s Park a few years ago, which Jones and residents said helped reduce negative activities.
However, vandalism and violence sometimes occurs after parks close, Jones said.
Kaleb Landrus, another neighbor, said people use Franklin Park for normal activities during the day, but things “start to get a little shady” when night falls. But it usually doesn’t escalate into shootings, he said.
Landrus said Saturday’s shooting won’t deter him from using the park because it was an isolated incident.
“It’s a pretty friendly neighborhood park,” Landrus said.
Dan Kelly said he always feels safe at the park during his rides, and the shooting won’t change that.
“I don’t feel threatened by an incident that happened,” he said.
But Landrus said violent crime is “definitely increasing” in the city. He said he grew up in the Garland area and bought his house across the street from Franklin Park twelve years ago.
He said the increase in violence may be a result of rapid population growth.
“It’s definitely more prevalent than when I was a kid,” Landrus said of violent crime.
Brian Sauer, who has lived in Spokane for nearly 50 years and was playing disc golf Saturday at Franklin Park, said population growth is a big part of the spike in crime.
“People are just crazy,” he said.
Preuninger and Meidl, meanwhile, have been with the department for about 30 years.
“This is the worst we’ve seen,” Meidl said of the city’s violence.
The trend is nationwide, with violent crime up 12 percent in 2021, according to a report by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police.
The report showed that there were 325 murders in 2021 in Washington, a 5.9% increase over 2020. Murders increased by 47% from 2019 to 2020.
Preuninger said officers receive so many shooting calls that they are often unable to conduct a thorough investigation. If no one is hit by a bullet, two officers will show up, collect shell casings, and perhaps conduct interviews and watch video surveillance before leaving.
“The scary thing is that right now it’s so busy at night, there are times when, if we don’t have a person hit (by a bullet), we don’t have anybody to send out to look for Ring camera video, check for casings and some times look for a body,” Preuninger said.
“It’s so common now to hear gunshots and find evidence of a gunshot, but no one does,” he added.
Anyone with information about the Franklin Park shooting is asked to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.