The 47-year-old computer technician sat in the courtroom and listened to his pregnant wife and two of her friends testify about his abusive ways then, in the hallway after the hearing, shot all three, police said.
Security guards at the King County Courthouse immediately tackled and disarmed Timothy C. Blackwell. He is accused of a shooting spree that killed his mail-order, Filipino wife, her unborn child, and one of her friends and critically wounded the other friend.
In the aftermath, a stunned King County Executive Gary Locke ordered that a long-stalled proposal to check all persons entering the courthouse for weapons be implemented as of Friday.
Dead were Blackwell’s estranged wife, Susana, 25; her eight-month-old fetus; and Phoebe Dizon, 46. In critical condition last night at Harborview Medical Center was Veronica Laureta, 46.
Blackwell had sued to annul his marriage to his wife, alleging that she duped him into it in order to legally come to the United States. Had the marriage been annulled, she faced possible deportation back to the Philippines.
Susana Remerata Blackwell, in turn, had charged her husband with domestic violence and was seeking a divorce, which would have allowed her to remain in the country.
“It was a fairly bitter marriage,” said attorney Margaret Baran, whose law partner, Mimi Castillo, represented Susana Blackwell. “The husband wanted an annulment in the marriage; the wife alleged domestic violence.”
The shootings left court personnel stunned and shaken.
Shattered glass was strewn throughout the hallway, but it was caused by medics slamming their stretchers into doors to get at the victims.
Locke, the county executive, was so unnerved by the shooting, which occurred two floors below his office, that he ordered the installation of metal detectors at building entrances rather than near courtrooms, effective today.
All court activity was suspended for the day by Ann Ellington, King County Superior Court presiding judge.
As recently as six weeks ago, Ellington had argued unsuccessfully for improved safety measures at the courthouse, warning that a tragedy could occur at any time.
“This event is needed to bring about change,” she said at a news conference. “I don’t think today is the day for finger-pointing. I think today is the day for three agencies to put the proper safety measures together.”
Asked if she was angry, a solemnfaced Ellington responded: “I’m sorrowful.”
Blackwell, a Seattle computer company employee, was seeking to have his marriage of almost two years annulled, according to court documents. He had claimed his wife had deceived him, marrying only to gain entry into the country.
Blackwell’s employer, Gary Lukowski, expressed shock.
“As far as we were concerned, he was a good employee, quiet, kept to himself, never threw things around or anything,” Lukowski said.