A shooting at a Skagit County shopping mall that killed five people ranging in age from 16 to 95 was voted the state’s top news story of 2016 by Associated Press member editors and AP staff.
Other top news items of the past 12 months included the Sounders hoisting their first MLS Cup, Gov. Jay Inslee’s re-election and the ruling that the ancient Kennewick Man skeleton is related to modern Native American tribes.
Here are 2016’s Top Washington stories:
1. Deadly mall shooting
On Sept. 23 a man carrying a .22-caliber Ruger rifle opened fire at a department store cosmetic counter at the Cascade Mall in Burlington. Five people were killed and the gunman fled, prompting a daylong manhunt. Arcan Cetin, 20, was arrested in Oak Harbor and faces five first-degree murder charges. After Cetin’s initial court hearing, his stepfather, David Marshall, told reporters that Cetin “has had mental health issues that we have been working on him with.” Court records show Cetin had been diagnosed with anxiety and depression and his criminal history goes back several years, with charges including assault, DUI, domestic violence and malicious mischief. The victims in the mall shooting included a 16-year-old girl who had had cancer and a 95-year-old woman who had gone to the mall with her 64-year-old daughter, who was also killed.
2. Sounders triumph
They fired their coach and lost their star player to health problems, but Seattle Sounders FC managed to win the team’s first ever MLS Cup – without even taking a shot on goal in the championship game. The Sounders prevailed 5-4 in a penalty-kick shootout over Toronto FC. The big win capped a tumultuous year for the soccer club, which is backed by some of the most intense fans in the league. In July the team fired Sigi Schmid, the winningest coach in MLS history, as Seattle sat in ninth place in the Western Conference standings. In August, Seattle lost star Clint Dempsey after he was diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat. But with the addition of Uruguayan midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro, the team staged a remarkable late season run to qualify for the playoffs and bring back the most notable trophy in the franchise’s history.
3. Minimum wage hike
In November, Washington voters approved a measure to raise the statewide minimum wage. Initiative 1433 boosts the hourly wage by roughly $4 over three years, to $13.50. Washington’s current minimum age is $9.47 an hour. The federal minimum wage is $7.25. The measure also requires employers to provide paid sick leave – at least one hour for every 40 worked – that could be used to care for family members or as “safe leave” for those who miss work because of domestic violence. Supporters of I-1433 said giving low-wage workers hundreds in extra monthly pay will boost the state’s economy, but foes said the measure could cost jobs and force businesses to close.
4. Escapes uncovered
Two dangerous inmates escaped from Western State Hospital in early April. At the time, officials said the escapes were a rarity. However an Associated Press investigation found 185 instances since 2013 in which patients at Washington state’s largest mental hospital escaped or walked away. Most of the missing patients were held under a state law which says people can be locked up if a mental disorder makes them a danger to themselves or others. But some of the missing had been hospitalized after being charged with murder, rape, kidnapping, assault and robbery. Gov. Jay Inslee fired the hospital CEO after the April escapes.
5. Inslee re-elected
Jay Inslee won a second term as Washington’s governor in November, defeating Republican Bill Bryant. Inslee, a Democrat, was a long-time congressman before he was first elected in 2012. Inslee has emerged as a national voice on the environment and boasted during the campaign that the state is requiring the biggest polluters to reduce emissions and is also promoting alternative energy. Inslee will likely see his national profile rise as he and other Democratic governors challenge President-elect Donald Trump and Republicans over plans to repeal President Barack Obama’s federal health care law.
6. Griffey goes to Hall
Ken Griffey Jr. was inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame 27 years after he first wowed Seattle fans at the Kingdome. The July ceremony capped a remarkable career for the former Mariner, who debuted in the majors as a teenager and went on to hit 630 home runs, to win 10 Gold Glove Awards in center field, and to win the American League Most Valuable Player Award in 1997.
7. Hanford vapors
Dozens of Hanford workers received medical attention over the past year after reporting exposure to vapors at the nuclear reservation. Workers said they experienced nosebleeds, chest and lung pain, headaches, coughing, sore throats, irritated eyes and difficulty breathing. Washington’s attorney general, Bob Ferguson, has intervened and asked a federal judge to protect workers from exposure to the chemicals. Hanford for decades made plutonium for nuclear weapons, and the site near Richland in southeastern Washington is now engaged in a massive cleanup of the resulting radioactive wastes. The wastes are stored in 177 massive underground tanks, and it is vapors escaping from some of those tanks that are thought to be making workers sick.
8. Auditor trial deadlock
In April a federal jury failed to reach a verdict on charges that state Auditor Troy Kelley illegally pocketed millions of dollars in fees while running a real estate services business before he took office. The jury couldn’t reach a conclusion on 14 of 15 charges, including possession of stolen property and money laundering. Kelley was acquitted on one charge of lying to the IRS. After he was initially charged Inslee and other state leaders urged Kelley to resign, but he refused. Kelley opted not to run for re-election this year, and federal prosecutors have said they’ll try him again.
9. Tacoma officer killed
A Tacoma police officer responding to a domestic violence call was shot and killed in November. Officer Reginald “Jake” Gutierrez, 45, had been with the department since 1999. The suspected gunman barricaded himself inside a house for hours before he was killed by a sheriff’s sniper.
10. Kennewick Man
In 1996 two young men attending the annual hydroplane races in the Tri-Cities discovered a nearly complete set of bones along the banks of the Columbia River. The remains, eventually dubbed Kennewick Man, were determined to be thousands of years old, and scientists and Native American tribes fought over who should control them. In April the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Kennewick Man is related to modern Native American tribes. In December President Obama signed a bill requiring the bones to be returned to tribes within 90 days. Experts estimate the remains to be at least 8,400 years old.
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