Shooting motive still a mystery
SEATTLE – Along with his twin brother Kane, Kyle Huff was voted “least school-spirited” in his senior year of high school in 1996, in the small northwest Montana town of Whitefish.
At 6-foot-4 and both pushing 275 pounds, with mops of long hair and oft-unshaven faces, the quiet twins were nicknamed the Wooks – because, classmates explained, they looked like the huge furry Wookiee creature Chewbacca, in “Star Wars.”
Kyle never caused much trouble in Whitefish, authorities say, with one notable exception: One summer night in 2000, using his 12-gauge Winchester pistol-grip shotgun and a .40-caliber semiautomatic Ruger handgun, Kyle blew a fiberglass moose sculpture to bits outside a local bed-and-breakfast.
Huff was charged with felony criminal mischief, and his guns were taken away. But a year later, after apologizing for what he called a “stupid, drunken act,” agreeing to community service for the Salvation Army and copping to a misdemeanor plea, Kyle Huff got his guns back.
They were the same guns Huff used the morning of March 25, when he charged into a rental house here in Seattle and shot six young people to death at an all-night, post-rave dance party.
Moments later, as a police officer arrived and ordered him to drop his weapons, Huff instead put the shotgun in his mouth and fired.
The senseless rampage and suicide in the Capitol Hill neighborhood – the city’s biggest mass murder in more than 20 years – have shaken Seattle to its core.
The bloody deaths are all the more striking for the young victims’ poignantly nonviolent lives: Among the dead are a 14-year-old girl who called herself “Chinadoll”; a 15-year-old girl who told classmates at her alternative high school that Gandhi was her role model; and a 26-year-old young man who had worked as a clown.
But what remains a mystery to police, to his friends and neighbors – and even to the man who was his twin brother and roommate, police say – is what inner rage drove Kyle Huff to kill.
There is nothing pointing to “some predicate event to this rampage,” said Seattle’s deputy police chief, Clark Kimerer. But Huff, 28, who had worked as a pizza delivery man here for the past several months, was “clearly intent on doing homicidal mayhem,” Kimerer said.
Toxicology tests, which will not be available for a few days, may shed some light on whether Huff was drunk or perhaps under the influence of some other drug or combination of drugs.
Huff apparently wasn’t well known to the party-goers, who had been to a “living dead”-themed rave dance, with fake blood and macabre costumes, that started Friday night, March 24.
On a rave-dance Web site, a “Kyle Huff” posted this message early last month: “Hey, I’ve never been to a rave in Seattle and was wondering if anyone could tell me when one is coming up.”
Early Saturday morning, March 25, at the rave, Huff met Anthony Moulton, 25, who invited Huff back to the shared rental home on Capitol Hill for an after-party.
According to a search warrant filed last week in King County District Court, Moulton told police Huff seemed “sketchy,” different, putting off “bad vibes.” Moulton told investigators he thought it would be entertaining to have someone like that at the after-party he and his roommates were throwing.
Huff seemed friendly enough, Moulton told police, and agreed to come over.
Attendees recalled that Huff drank a few bottles of beer and seemed quiet. He left at about 6:50 a.m.; from there he went back to his truck, took up weapons and returned a few minutes later. He shot two people dead on the porch, killed four more in the living room, and then went upstairs and downstairs, firing through locked doors and in the small spaces where terrified party-goers hid.
Other weaponry found in the truck included a rifle, a baseball bat, a black machete and more than 300 rounds of ammunition. According to the search warrant, police also found two five-gallon cans full of gasoline.
Police have also seized Huff’s computer and are looking for any other possible clues to his motives, but none have emerged, Kimerer said.
In the apartment, police found six baggies containing a “green vegetable matter” which they believe to be marijuana on a coffee table in the living room, said Officer Sean Whitcomb.
One rifle was found in the gunman’s bedroom and two in his brother’s bedroom, as well as several gun brochures.
Aside from the 2000 incident with the moose sculpture, they are looking at the only other time Huff’s name appears to have shown up in criminal records here or in his native Montana: a May 2004 altercation outside a Seattle music club, in which Huff and his twin brother, listed as the “victims” in the official incident report, told police they had been attacked by a group of “skinheads.”
Kane Huff, Kyle’s twin brother, has been interviewed but is not considered a suspect, police say: He was out grocery shopping when officers first showed up to look for evidence, shortly after the shooting, at the north Seattle apartment he and Kyle shared. He told them he was dumbfounded.
At the three-story stucco complex, called Town & Country apartments and set across a busy thoroughfare from an Indian- and Pakistani-foods market, neighbors described the Huff brothers as polite and quiet, save for the occasional drumming they both liked to practice, always at respectable hours.
The brothers were fans of country music and often helped out their elders in the 83-unit complex, especially by carrying groceries and other shopping items for them.
The young men never caused any damage, provoked complaints or missed the $795 monthly rent, said Jim Pickett, the assistant manager of the apartment complex.”
In Whitefish, where Kyle grew up and where his mother runs an art gallery, classmates and former teachers said they had no inkling he would one day commit mass murder.
“He was very quiet; I never had a discipline problem with him, not a single time,” said his pottery teacher at Whitefish High, Martin Christiansen. I never saw him angry.” Several people who knew Kyle said the shooting of the moose sculpture, at least at the time, seemed a by-product of drunken mischief, not any predictive warning of homicidal rage.
“Everybody figured it was just a deal where he was not using his head and probably had a few beers in him,” said Mick Hoon, a water deliveryman in Whitefish whose son, Dusty, was a classmate of the twins.
Kyle liked guns and liked to hunt, Hoon said, but so does just about every other boy who ever grew up in Whitefish.
“The moose thing was dumb, of course,” he added. “But there were never any problems after that. There was no history or pattern. So to say it threw up a big red flag, well, honestly, no, that just wasn’t there.”