One person died and three others were injured in an early morning shooting Saturday at Franklin Park near the 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 on the south end of the park, according to a Spokane Police Department news release.
Officers found four people with gunshot wounds and multiple other people in the area of the park across 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 was dead at the scene. The three wounded victims were critically injured, he said.
“When the officers first got there, it was pretty chaotic,” Preuninger said.
Initial reports indicated the shooting stemmed from a dispute, officers said. Preuninger said police had no suspect information to release and are 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 roughly Calispel Street, and some side streets in the area, were closed until at least Saturday afternoon.
On Saturday, neighbors near Franklin Park said the park is safe and popular.
People use the large park for walking, playing sports, picnics and even weddings, they said.
“I’m just very shocked because this is a very active park for families and kids, and I just hope it doesn’t make families think twice of bringing their kids to the park,” Brian Kalning said.
It was the second shooting of multiple people at a Spokane park this week.
On Thursday, police said three teenagers and a 40-year-old man were shot early in the morning in Dutch Jake’s Park in West Central.
Preuninger said there’s no indication the Dutch Jake’s Park shooting was related to the Franklin Park shooting, although a suspect hasn’t been identified in either incident.
Spokane Police Chief Craig Meidl said victims and witnesses in both park shootings 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 that led to a shooting.
Two teen boys sustained injuries that were not life-threatening. Authorities in Arkansas arrested 25-year-old Jordan D. Genzlinger on suspicion of two counts of first-degree assault in connection to the shooting. Genzlinger was still in the Spokane County Jail Saturday for the two charges.
Meidl said large groups often gather in the middle of the night in places like parks and parking lots. Arguments then ensue, sometimes spurred by alcohol, and they quickly escalate to gunfire, 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 “prowl check” at a park “hot spot” when they are not responding to calls. He said officers look for people in parks closed for the night.
But Meidl said officers often struggle to make 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 park shootings “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 at parks.
The city completed major renovations to Dutch Jake’s Park a few years ago, which Jones and residents said helped reduce negative activities.
Still, vandalism and violence sometimes spring up 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 doesn’t typically escalate to 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 walks, and the shooting won’t change that.
“I don’t feel threatened by one incident that happened,” he said.
But Landrus said violent crime is “definitely goin’ up” in the city. He said he grew up in the Garland District and bought his home across the street from Franklin Park a dozen years ago.
He said the rise in violence could be a result of the booming 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 almost 50 years and was playing disc golf Saturday at Franklin Park, said the population increase is a big part of the spike in crime.
“People are just crazy,” he said.
Preuninger and Meidl, meanwhile, have been with the department about 30 years.
“This is the worst we’ve seen it,” Meidl said of the city’s violence.
The trend is statewide, as violent crime increased 12% in 2021, according to a report by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs.
The report showed there were 325 murders in 2021 in Washington, an increase of 5.9% over 2020. Murders increased 47% from 2019 to 2020.
Preuninger said officers receive so many shots fired calls that they are often unable to conduct a thorough investigation.
If no one is struck by a bullet, a couple of officers will show up, collect shell casings and perhaps conduct interviews and watch video surveillance before leaving.
“The scary thing is right now it gets so busy at night there are times where if we don’t have a person hit (by a bullet), we have no one to send to look for Ring camera video, check for casings and sometimes look for a body,” Preuninger said.
“It is so common now to have shots being fired and finding evidence of a shooting, and yet no one to work it.”
Anyone with information about the Franklin Park shooting is asked to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.
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